Last year, I discovered the most wonderful thing. In cooking, swiss chard can be substituted for spinach. Always. The rib part can be cooked like asparagus, steamed topped with a little butter. Delicious!
Swiss chard just isn’t really available in the average grocery store here. I have no idea why.
Unlike spinach, swiss chard can tolerate the summer. It prefers a little shade in the hotter months, but it just keeps on growing either way.
Swiss chard is a mega source of vitamins K, A and C, a respectable source of iron. Plus one serving of Swiss chard contains considerably more potassium than a serving of banana. Who new? Got a leg cramp or recovering from heart surgery, eat some chard, baby!
There are two basic kinds that I am aware of: white-stemmed or colored stemmed.
The most common white stemmed seems to be “Fordhook Giant.” We tried this one last year and it seemed to survive the cold and heat better than the colored varieties. I can’t recall a flavor difference between the white and colored stem varieties, but there might have been one.
The color varieties I seem to bump into are “Bright Lights” and “Rhubarb,” which other than color is no relation to the rhubarb plant as far as I know.
Little kids always prefer the colorful kind. Plus, it is easy enough for their own little garden, tabletop or outdoors.
Anyway, the colored variety are so cheery they really would make a great addition to your windowsill garden. Or perhaps, as an edible ornamental outside.
Here’s how I would plant either kind indoors:
Outdoor folks must wait their turn.
In a long planter, like a window box, plant each seed about 1/2″deep (a little more than a centimeter.) Each seed should be a bout 4″apart ( 10 cm.) If quarters are tight, it may help to stagger them.
When the leaves are about the height of your hand span, it’s time to harvest. Carefully, with a sharp knife cut the tallest of the outer leaves. Oh, around 55 to 60ish days.
How to plant either kind outdoors:
I like a foot (30cm) wide row with the seeds slightly staggered. So your big row is 3 mini rows wide. Plant them no closer than 4″( 10 cm ) apart. Harvest around 8 weeks when they are as tall as your hand span, between 6 and 9″( 15 to 23 cm.) Carefully, with a sharp knife cut the tallest of the outer leaves. Keep them cut and they will keep producing.
To cook: Remove the leaves from the main rib.
Treat the leaves like you would spinach. Personally, I love it creamed. Yum! ( Yes, I will eventually get around to posting that recipe. )
Cook the rib as you would asparagus. Steamed, a little butter or olive oil, maybe a handful of blanched almonds on top.
Now, how did a gardening post end up making me hungry?
Anyway, give Swiss Chard a try. It is a great beginner plant. So easy. So nutritious.
See you next time…
Are you going to plant the white stemmed, colored stemmed or both?
(Neighbor Nancy grabs a slice of banana bread and flies out the door, letting the screen bang shut behind her.)
See you next time.