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The name chard comes ultimately from Latin carduus, ‘thistle’, and is thus related to cardoon. However, the plant chard is not a member of the thistle family, to which the cardoon and globe artichoke belong: it is a beet. The reason for the association of names is that, as with cardoons, it is the enlarged midrib of the leaf which is eaten. English acquired the word in the seventeenth century, from French carde. It is first recorded in 1658, in John Evelyn's French Gardener, in the sense ‘leaf-stalk of an artichoke’, but within less than a decade had settled to its present meaning ‘beet leaf.’ The initial ch- may derive from French chardon, ‘thistle’.

Chard has been alternatively known since at least the early eighteenth century as Swiss chard, apparently from an association of the vegetable with Switzerland by the Dutch. Similar, but with slightly larger stalks, is the seakale beet, known in Australia and New Zealand as silver beet.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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