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ID'ing Spinach vs Chard

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Is it possible to visually tell the difference between Swiss Chard and spinach? They are often given as interchangeable terms but I know they are actually two different plants. Couldn't find anything online, so suggestions here would be welcome. Thanks.

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  1. if you do a google search for swiss chard, and then for spinach you will get results with photos. they are very different looking - swiss chard has a bigger stalk,concave like celery and about the same width as celery, whereas spinach has a smooth stalk, much shorter and usually about the diameter of a pencil or less. I've not heard that chard and spinach are interchangeable terms, they taste very different and have different cooking times.

    1 Reply
    1. re: janniecooks

      Chard can be used in place of spinach and vice versa in recipes and salads. Yep, they do taste different and have a slightly different texture but if you don't have one you can use the other. Can't say I've noticed a difference in cooking times.

    2. Swiss chard is quite different visually to spinach (at least they mean different things in Australia) although yes they can be used interchangeably (personally I have a preference for chard when it is called for as spinach I find can have an unpleasant mouth feel occasionally due to its tannins.

      Swiss chard/Silverbeet grows to around 0.4 - 0.6m high with relatively thick ribbed stems which can be white, pink or yellow/orange (sometimes called rainbow chard). It has deep green wrinkly shiny leaves that make rubbery sounds when chopped in bunches. the leaves can grow to approx 0.3m in addition to the stem. It also grows as a discrete plant with all stems growing from one root base.

      Spinach by contrast is a lighter green much smaller plant with only a few narrow stems growing per root base and in some ways looks more like a weedy ground cover. The leaves of the adult spinach plant are significantly smaller than chard without chard's shine or wrinkles, and in some ways resemble a stemmed bulky/broad milk thistle leaf.

      I think the confusion lies in the fact that restaurants will often use baby swiss chard which with its red/pink stem and smooth leaf looks much like spinach and describe it simply as swiss chard.