From a young age, I developed a strained relationship with Swiss chard.

I happily ate spinach as a child and all sorts of salad greens, too. Swiss chard, though, was always a disappointment.

If I had to point a finger, my late Aunt Agnes would get the blame for my dislike of this hearty garden green.

Aunt Agnes was a wonderful gardener; she could grow anything. Her cooking was another story.

Her mother died when she was very young, and I suspect that Aunt Agnes did the best she could in the kitchen, considering that she had no one to teach her while growing up.

As an adult, Aunt Agnes owned and operated a business and devoted little time to cooking. She cooked enough to keep her and my Uncle Charlie from starving, but no one ever lined up for seconds of her food.

Her garden always produced a bumper crop of Swiss chard, and Aunt Agnes used it in everything. Most disappointing were the classic Lebanese dishes that she chose to reinterpret with chard.

Lebanese fataya — hand pies typically filled with bright-green spinach and lemon — were instead stuffed with chopped Swiss chard, leaving the dough pockets stained pink inside from its red stems.

My siblings and I would bite into them, take one look at the pink and know immediately that we’d been duped.

Instead of using grape leaves the way everyone else in the family did, Aunt Agnes would roll up chard leaves with the spicy lamb and rice filling.

In my child’s mind, I determined that chard made bad cooking even worse.

Years later, when my husband and I moved into our first home, most of the backyard had been the previous owner’s vegetable garden.

We set out to convert the yard into grassy areas, landscape beds and a much smaller vegetable garden. As we dug and planted, the broad green leaves and red stems of chard seemed to surface wherever we turned.

“What is this stuff?” my husband queried. “Rhubarb?”

“No,” I said. “It’s chard.”

My nemesis had returned to haunt me.

As I pulled stalk after stalk from the ground, I decided that chard must rival rabbits in ability to multiply.

Years later, when I bought a farm share, colorful fronds of rainbow chard often were included in my weekly box. Only then did I start to embrace this sturdy green, which actually is part of the beet family.

It seemed a shame to dislike something so beautiful, but often I would give it away rather than cook with it.

I decided to celebrate this May — the month when Ohio’s chard harvest begins — by trying to improve my relationship with this leafy green.

It turns out that chard is pretty tasty — a fine substitute for spinach.

Unfortunately, this only confirms my theory about Aunt Agnes’ cooking.

— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at labraham@dispatch.com or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.