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Is Swiss Chard the Same as Rhubarb?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Is Swiss chard the same as rhubarb? It's easy to confuse the two forms of produce but they are not identical.

Both plants have green leaves, red stems, and reddish stalks that are edible once cooked. However, rhubarb belongs to the Polygonaceae or buckwheat family—along with other plants like sorrel and spinach, while Swiss chard belongs to the Chenopodioideae family.

They also have other distinct differences. Let's look at how the two differ.

Swiss Chard and Rhubarb: What Are the Differences?

Swiss chard is a leafy vegetable that grows best in warm weather and is a fantasatic addition to any garden. It has beautiful green leaves with red veins running through them. The stems are also edible, but because they are tough, most people cook them. Swiss chard is only one form of chard. Another popular type is called rainbow chard.

Rhubarb is an herb native to Siberia and other parts of northern China and was used medicinally in China. It was introduced into England in the early 1800s and people continue to grow it as a food source today. There are two main varieties of rhubarb: red and green (which is a deep magenta color). Red rhubarb is more common than green but there isn’t a significant difference in flavor between the red and green varieties.

Both Are Easy to Grow

If you're a gardener, you might have either of these two plants or both. Both are popular garden choices—both plants are easy-to-grow crops that can provide fresh food all season long.

If you look at the plants, you’ll see notable differences in their appearance. The long, edible leaves of Swiss chard are dark green while the rhubarb has non-edible, light green leaves. One reason people confuse the two is that they both have red stems.

Swiss chard

Swiss chard

Taste Differences

The two plants have distinct flavors.

  • Rhubarb: You’ll notice a distinctly tart taste. For recipes, rhubarb pairs well with sweet foods. This makes it popular in desserts.
  • Swiss chard: This tastes more like leafy greens that you’re familiar with such as kale or spinach. Most people serve Swiss chard as a savory side dish and raw in salads.

Nutritional Differences

The two plants also differ in terms of their nutritional benefits. Both are a source of carbohydrates, your body's main source of energy. However, Swiss chard has higher levels of key nutrients.

  • Swiss chard contains more antioxidants and antioxidant vitamins, like vitamins A and C, than rhubarb. Like rhubarb, Swiss chard also contains oxalates but in much lower quantities than the amount in rhubarb leaves (which you shouldn't eat).
  • Rhubarb stalks are not as nutritious as Swiss chard. They contain some vitamin K, some B vitamins, and moderate quantities of potassium and calcium. Rhubarb is also much higher in natural sugars than Swiss chard. Rhubarb, like Swiss chard, contains some antioxidants. The stalks of the rhubarb plant also contain anthocyanins, compounds with antioxidant activity that fight inflammation.

Rhubarb: Note of Caution

The stalks are the only edible portion of the rhubarb. The green leaves contain such high levels of oxalates that eating even a modest amount can cause digestive upset. Eating large quantities of the leaves can lead to nervous system problems, like muscle twitching, and kidney failure.

Distinct Differences

As you can see, Swiss chard and rhubarb come from different families and differ in terms of their nutrition and taste. They both have a place in the culinary world though. Swiss chard is popular raw in salads and sauteed as a side dish. Some people also add the leaves to soups and stews.

You can also add raw rhubarb stalks to salads, including fruit salads. It’s common to use rhubarb in desserts, but the stalks also make a great side dish. Rhubarb has a tart taste that pairs well with other sweet flavors like strawberries and cream or lemon.If you like to bake, rhubarb pie or cobbler are a welcome addition to the dinner table. Some people also use it to make a tart but sweet jam.

You can often find both types of produce at your local farmer's markets. When you buy it there, you’re supporting local farmers and your local community.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.