Posts Tagged Garden Greens

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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