Dalmatian Chard with garlic and olive oil OR Blitva s maslinovim uljem i lukom

Even the most elaborate and beautiful main dishes appear a little dull and painfully lack something if presented on their own, without a single side dish. To me, side dishes are not just a side issue, but an important component of a meal. It is often the complexity and the number of side dishes that impress the guests. In that spirit, let me present you with one of my favourite Dalmatian side dishes: Swiss Chard with garlic and olive oil, or in Dalmatian, Blitva s maslinovim uljem i lukom (scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe or better said guidelines, since I included no quantities).

If you ask me, this is THE perfect accompaniment to grilled fish (Dalmatian recipe to come)! Perhaps only the Dalmatian-style potato salad comes slightly close, but not too close. It’s also great served with grilled meat. In addition, this dish, and some fried eggs, make a simple but tasty dinner. (To us, lunch is the main meal of the day, while we tend to have something small and simple for dinner, unless we’re entertaining).

I called this recipe ‘Dalmatian’ because this is how my mum and grandmas, and other cooks in Dalmatia, cook chard. Reading around, I found out that chard is prepared in a similar manner elsewhere, namely in Italy and France. This didn’t come as a surprise. After all, chard is native to Mediterranean, and olive oil and garlic are omnipresent in all Mediterranean cuisines. Similarities like this are not uncommon in areas of shared geography and climate. Also, chard was known to Ancient Greeks and Romans, who valued it for its medicinal and nutritional properties. It may well be that this recipe comes from their time. Dalmatia, or Illyria as was then known, was first colonised by the Greeks, and then later by the Romans.

This simple method of preparation enhances the flavour of the vegetables, and the garlic goes really well with Swiss chard. Any green leafy vegetable can be prepared like this. We prepare cabbage, Savoy cabbage and spinach in the same way. All are delicious, but in Dalmatia, we really like our chard. So much that we’ve been nicknamed accordingly… But who cares? I certainly don’t!

PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons: Swiss Chard

Chard –  Beta vulgaris var. cicla

Chard is also known as Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach or Mangold. This tall, leafy green vegetable is actually a beet, like beetroot for example, but it doesn’t have a bulb. Swiss chard has beautiful dark green leaves, while the stalks can be white, yellow or red. All three types taste pretty much the same: similar to spinach, but slightly more bitter. Both its soft leaves and the crunchy stalks are used in cooking.

In spite of the word Swiss in its name, ‘Swiss’ Chard is actually a true Mediterranean, being native to Mediterranean countries. Chard was named after cardoon, a Mediterranean celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French called both plants “carde.” The Swiss connection comes from the fact that the Swiss botanist Koch determined the scientific name of this plant in the 19th century. The adjective Swiss was also used to distinguish the two vegetables.

This vegetable is rich in vitamins and very nutritious.


Dalmatian Chard with garlic and olive oil


Blitva s maslinovim uljem i lukom


SOURCE: Mum’s recipe



CUISINE: Croatian Dalmatian 



Swiss Chard (or any other green leafy vegetable)



Olive oil

Salt and pepper



1. Begin by preparing the chard by removing the stalks, and any leaves that are damaged. Rinse well.

2. Peel the potatoes, and cut them into pieces. Put the potatoes into water, and boil for a few minutes.

3. When the potatoes are starting to become soft, add the chard, and cook until both the potatoes and the chard is soft.

4. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and chop into pieces.

5. When the chard is done, strain the water.

6. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add garlic to it. Fry for a minute or two, and add the chard and the potatoes.

7. Continue frying the vegetables until the water has evaporated and the flavour of garlic and olive oil has permeated the chard and potatoes. Break the potatoes with the back of a spoon if you wish, to make the potato pieces smaller, and the dish creamier.

 Serve along some grilled or fried fish, grilled meat, or fried eggs.




Delicious! It really goes well with grilled fish. Do try it!


Swiss Chard recipes elsewhere:

At Beyond Salmon

Swiss Chard Recipe at Simply Recipes

Swiss chard info and recipes at Vegbox


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Leave a comment


  1. I heard Chard is lil bit bitter to taste , is that so? Your recipe is tempting me to try one….


  2. Maninas

     /  9 September, 2007

    It is a little, but not too bitter. Let me know if you like it. 🙂


  3. this sounds so similar to just plain old “saag alu” which my family makes with lots of garlic with addition of dry red chili instead of salt & pepper.


  4. Really? It sounds good!


  5. My grandmother was Dalmatian in origin and I am really interested in these recipes. This one sounds delicious and similar to how we prepare greens in Lebanese cuisine.


  6. Oh really? 🙂 Where from? Did she used to make any Dalmatian foods?


  7. what a wonderful blog and a great way to learn about Croatian food which I know very little about. Several of my friends have visited Croatia and have raved about the food.
    Mangold, as it is called here, is very popular especially amoung the Moroccans who prepare it in a similar fashion but with the addition of chickpeas.
    Cardoons are in the same family as Artichokes,but bred for the stems and not the flower head.


  8. I’ll look out for the Morrocan recipe for chard/mangold. It sounds good. I might throw in some chilli flakes, too!

    Sounds like cardoons are used pretty much like celery then, is that right?


  9. nemorino

     /  27 March, 2010

    Thanks for this. We get lots of chard in our organic veg box and I’m very fond of it. I had the pleasure of visiting Croatia (Dalmatia, specifically) last September, and I had read about blitva being a national dish. I wasn’t disappointed – either by the dish, which is excellent, or by the country, which is beautiful.

    Hvala lijepo!


  10. Hi nemorino! I’m happy to hear that you had a good time in Croatia.

    As for the chard, Dalmatians in particular have a very special relationship to it! So much that we are known, or mockingly called chard-eaters (blitvari) in other parts of Croatia!


  11. Frances

     /  18 April, 2012

    Delighted to find your receipe..Tried to make it today without proper instruction .It was disappointing..I didnt cook the garlic…so it was VERY strong.Will try again soon.Thanks.


  12. Maja

     /  1 August, 2012

    Hi there. Love your site! Just wanted to add that you can use kale leaves instead of chard but you would need to cook them a bit longer. Chard needs to be cooked for only a bit (you can eat it fresh anyway), that way you can feel it under your teeth 🙂
    As for the garlic, DON’T cook it! Just use less, or mesh them. Cooking not only destroys the taste but also destroys many valuable nutrients.
    Cheers from Croatia!


    • Buz

       /  16 February, 2013

      I agree, garlic raw. If you throw it in when it it still hot it will mellow without actually cooking. My family is Dalmatian, my grandmother was a brilliant cook. Silverbeet was a mainstay in her house. She used to beat the mix with a table fork so that the potato was creamy and the silverbeet broken up. You couldn’t make her use a more sensible larger implement in her enormous pots of the stuff, she insisted. Gotta admit, it somehow makes a difference, creamier and fluffier than other versions I have tried.
      Also we always had cold silverbeet in the fridge as a snack or quick side dish – with olive oil, garlic and lemon. Yum. While other kids got sweets at their Nana’s place, my treat was greens and fish, that I always couldn’t wait to scoff down.
      Lucky me, I was brought up on what are suddenly superfoods in the modern world. Fish, kale, chard, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, black grapes and dark berries etc etc … well you know the list.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. travelingfoodee

     /  24 October, 2014

    I just returned from two weeks in Croatia, and became a big, big fan of blitva. For those who don’t care for chard here (not me .. I love chard), this isn’t really anything like our US ‘Swiss chard.’ … this is more like beet green tops, which are sweet and tender .. but here in the US only come with the beets attached, and way too many beets for the small amount of tops you get. As Mainas says, this is a lovely dish. Incidentally, traveling in Croatia, and eating our big meal usually in the evening instead of mid-day, you really must ask for vegetables if you want them. And then it’s either blitva or grilled veges, also lovely. They are always brought with a smile, and at very low cost added to the meal, sometimes nothing at all. You just have to ask.


  14. I am always looking for new things to do with Swiss chard b/c my husband & I both enjoy it. We had blitva at several restaurants in Croatia this summer & loved it!! I am excited about preparing this when chard starts to show up at my farmer’s market in California. Thank you for posting!


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