Posts Tagged Leaves & Salad

Chard or Leaf Beet

Chard or Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris Cicla, is a member of the Chenopodiaceae family of plants. Known as poirée, bette or blette in France, it is a popular kitchen garden vegetable, although less known in the UK.  Chard is an excellent leafy vegetable; an all-rounder, tough, reliable and productive throughout the year, making it an excellent choice for any kitchen garden. The leaves can be used like spinach and the ribs are a delicious vegetable in their own right, particularly the varieties with thick ribs.

Biennial Hardy Edible Leafy plant

Chard, Verte a Carde Blanche, April 2007

History  The cultivation of chard dates back to classic antiquity. The Greeks and Romans used it widely but it did not become popular in Europe until the middle ages.

Site & Soil  Swiss Chard is tough, tolerant of poor soils, shade, heat and temperatures down to –14c. It will grow best in a sunny site at  10-25c °C

Propagation  Chard will produce all year from a single sowing, it can be succession sown through the year or my preference is to make 2 sowings per year one in late winter/early spring and one in late summer/early autumn. Improve germination by soaking seeds for 24hrs before sowing to break down the hard seed shell.  Germinates 7-10days.

Sow (Feb) March-June and August-Sept (Oct) Crops Spring 60days Summer 45days

Spread 25cm x 45cm

Method

1. Sow in situ in drills 1-3cm deep, in rows 30cm apart. Thin, when the seedlings have 4-5 leaves, to 22cm apart
2. Sow undercover in cells and transplant after 4-6weeks
3. Sow 3-4 seeds in stations 20-25cm apart in rows 45cm apart
4. Broadcast sow in 10cm wide drills and treat as a CCA.

Harvest (April-May) May-Nov and Dec-April

It is in season for most of the year from early summer until mid to late spring the following year from an early spring sowing.Cut outer leaves just above ground level from several plants rather than completely stripping one. Continual cutting of outer leaves through the season ensures the production of new young tender leaves. Chard can be harvested at the baby leaf  stage for use in salad or as a cooked vegetable either use the thinnings or treat as a cut and come again by cutting the small plants down to just above the soil surface.

Storage Pick as required or harvest and store leaves in a fridge for up to 1 week.

Botany and Seed Saving  Retains 50% germination for 6 years. In mild winter climates the seed-to-seed method is used to produce seed in colder climates with frost killing winter the seed-to-root-to-seed method should be used. Thresh dried seed stalks and winnow to remove plant debris.  Beet seeds have an unusual structure in that each seed is a group of flowers held together by their petals. These clusters usually contains 2-5 seeds. An outbreeding, wind-pollinated plant with pollen travel up to 5 miles. Minimum of 6 plants required for seed production.

Companion Swiss chard is said to grow well with carrots, cabbage, beans, radish and turnip/swede. I find it grows particularly well next to aubergines.

Use as you would spinach; young leaves raw in salads and older leaves and ribs as a pot herb or leafy green.

Nutrition Swiss Chard is rich in Iron and Vitamin A as well as a useful amounts of Vitamin B & C.

Varieties

Verte a Carde Blanche Classic French variety with thick white succulent midribs and tasty dark green leaves. Really delicious this is my all time favourite chard variety.

Bright Lights A swiss chard with a mix bright colourful stems and a mild, sweet flavour. It will overwinter to provide leaves during milder weather in winter and into spring.

Lucullus A swiss chard with thinner 2-3cm wide pale green to white ribs and light green crinkle edged leaves.

Zilver thick white ribs and green leaves i found it disappointing (i grew an organic variety from unwins).

Perpetual Spinach A long-standing easy to grow spinach like green, it is actually a slim stalked, smooth leaf swiss chard or leaf beet. It is quite hardy and prolific supplying a “perpetual” harvest of leaves throughout the year. It is much slower to bolt during the hot weather and long days of summer than true spinach. Maturity from fifty days onward.

Further Reading

Seed to Seed: Suzanne Ashworth, p71

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Broccoli Raab

Cima di Rapa, Brassica Rapa generally classified in the Ruvo Group, is a fast growing brassica closely related to turnips and oriental greens. In Italy this vegetable is called Cima di Rapa and is also known as: turnip tops, broccoletto, broccoli de rabe, sprouting turnip tops, turnip mustard or rapini. It is grown primarily for the leaves, edible stem and the small bud clusters. The taste is light and mustardy with an interesting broccoli like nutty sweetness.  These winter and spring greens are hugely popular in Northern Italy, with both gardeners and cooks. In Italy most home gardeners seem to grow it and it is the star of a number of classic Italian dishes including Orecchiete e Cima di Rapa , pasta primavera, potato and spring greens pie, otherwise the greens are simply pan fried in olive oil with a little garlic or chilli pepper to taste.

Varieties
Varieties are named by the number of days they take to mature, I’ve found varieties named 40, 60, 90 or 120.
Harvest
To harvest, simply cut the budding shoots just before the flowers open at ground level or at a level where the stem is starting to get woody. Harvest until shoots are too small and tough. If the weather remains cool, you can expect a second and possibly third cutting from each plant.
Nutrition & Use
A versatile cooking green Broccoli raab can be boiled, steamed, sautéed, or fried. It can be used in soups, stir-fries, pies or in any dish you might use other cooking greens. Like most brassicas Broccoli raab is pretty healthy stuff. Rich in vitamins and minerals particularly Vitamins A and C, iron, folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Cultivation
Sow in drills, lightly cover with soil and keep well watered then thin to ideal spacing as they grow. Best suited to the cooler months and in my garden it grows well undercover from a November sowing, or from an autumn or early spring sowing outdoors.
Season & Temperature In Italy Cima di Rapa is considered a late winter and early spring vegetable.
Sow Jul-Oct

Sow Undercover November

Harvest Nov-March
Spacing Rows 25-30cm apart, plants 10-15cm apart in the row.
Crops in 5-6 weeks 40-120 days depending on the variety.

Seed Life

More info
Growing Rapini

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Tetragon

Also known as New Zealand Spinach, Tetragonia tetragonioides, from the Tetragoniaceae family formerly classified with Aizoaceae (ice plant). Tetragon is a half-hardy perennial originating in temperate, subtropical and coastal regions of the Southern Hemisphere. It is a quick-growing leafy vegetable with succulent like leaves and a low spreading habit, often over several feet, which can be left to spread or can apparently be trained to grow over trellising though I have not tried that myself. I prefer to grow it as an edible ground cover crop and I think it is a good choice for forest and perennial gardeners. A useful edible in warm climates as it can stand heat and dry conditions without bolting.

Half-Hardy self-seeding annual leafy edible plant

History An heirloom leafy vegetable that was a popular among the Maori people of New Zealand and first brought to Europe by Joseph Banks in 1771 on his return aboard the Endeavour with Captain Cook.

Site & Soil  Prefers a sunny site sheltered from frost with well-drained, sandy soil rich in organic matter and a PH range of 6.8-7. It is a resilient crop tolerant of very poor soils, high temperatures and maritime exposures but not of frost. Add well-rotted compost to the top 15cm of the soil before sowing.

Propagation Sow 1-2cm deep in fine soil and keep moist until seedlings emerge.

1.        Sow directly in mid-late spring after the last frost.

2.        Sow undercover and set out when 5cm high when all danger of frost has past.

Germination can be slow; soaking the seeds for 24hrs before sowing will help break down the hard outer coating of the seed. Germinates 7-21 days. Crops in 50-70 days

Timing Sow  (March-April) May   Harvest  July-Oct

Care Tetragon needs very little care. Pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth. Hoe to keep weeds down during seedling stage after that the foliage will act as a ground cover and suppress weeds. Water in very dry weather.

Pests & Diseases Tetragon is relatively pest free; slugs and snails don’t even seem to bother it.

Harvest Regular picking promotes new growth and plants can be cut down near to ground level and still re-grow.

Spread  120cm

Storage Will store for several days wrapped in paper in a salad drawer.

Botany and Seed Saving Seeds are very easy to collect. Flowers are produced at leaf axis along the growing stem leaving green buds with small spikes once these buds start to turn brown they are ready to harvest. Finish drying the seeds and store in a paper bags in cool temperatures. Be careful to harvest all the seeds before they drop, unless you want to start a self-seeding bed, as Tetragon is very good at propagating itself. Seed Life 50% germination for 5 years.

Use The tips and young leaves are used in place of spinach or other leafy greens. A particularly useful crop in hot dry areas or in summer when few other delicate greens will grow. In France Tetragon is used to make a quiche like tart with the boiled greens mashed up with egg, nutmeg and Crème fraîche and baked in a pastry shell. It is also steamed or boiled and drizzled with olive oil.

Nutrition Tetragon is high in Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C.

Varieties I have so far not come across any named varieties

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