Chard is a great vegetable to have in the veg patch.This honest and hard working plant is nutritious, easy to grow, versatile, aesthetically stunning and very generous. Chard also has an impressive list of health benefits, a low-maintenance attitude, and an incredibly long and bountiful season - from early summer right up to till the first frost.
There are several varieties of chard, ranging from the classics that have thick white stems like 'Lucullus' and 'Fordhook' to the dazzling coloured varieties like 'Ruby dark' and 'Bright Lights'. They are all delicious and a solid substitute for spinach which is harder to grow and rapidly bolts and goes to seed during dry weather.
Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla
Swiss chard, silver beet, perpetual spinach, beet spinach, seakale beet, or leaf beet
Plants that perform their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed within a single growing season.
Chard has a lengthy and bountiful season running from early summer through to early winter.
Rich in vitamins K, A and C. It is also a sourse of magnesium, potassium, iron and fibre.
HOW TO GROW
If the conditions are difficult, start chard off in seed trays under cover in early spring for summer and autumn harvesting. When the soil starts to warm up, you can plant the seeds directly into the ground when the signs of frost have passed.
Keep weed-free and well watered during dry spells.
HOW TO HARVEST
Chard is a cut-and-come-again plant. The more you cut, the more it grows. Snip the leaves off as you need them, but not too close to the stem. To harvest the whole plant, leave 5cm (2inch) of the stem above the ground to resprout.
With all leafy greens, the first thing to remind yourself is that leaves with holes in them are still edible.
IN THE KITCHEN
With its mild, slightly bitter flavour, Chard has a great ability to soak up surrounding flavours, and its versatility makes it usable in a wide-range of dishes.
- Older leaves can be chopped and lightly sautéed an used to fill a frittata or omelet.
- Fresh, raw young leaves work well in salads.
- Cooked leaves can be added to lasagnas, curries, soups and stews.
Remember to use more leaves than you think as chard shrinks significantly during the cooking process.
Keep in the fridge for a couple of days and only prepare when ready to cook. Simply wash thoroughly to remove any grit, then trim the leaves from the stalks as they take less time to cook.