The Fresh Chef: Swiss Chard — Widowsill or Garden

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.


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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. (Neighbor Nancy blushes with her apron hiding her face)

    Swiss Chard: I mean which way is it happier? Which way will give me more swiss chard in the end?

    Hey, think about planting cabbage and cucumbers, when ever that chart says is right. I plan on posting about sauerkraut and pickles in the fall. Yum.

    As for chicks, they are awesome. Easy as pie. Amazing to watch grow. My seed and feed only carries pullets (girls). Of course, with sexual organs they check through a magnifiying glass…well I’m sure you’ve read the Cockerel and the Granny Nightie by now.
    I was afraid of chickens. Seriously. Now, we keep kicking ourselves for not getting them sooner.

    How do you feel about dairy goats, honey bees or mason bees?
    And just what is going on with your sour dough?
    Am I keeping you busy enough?
    Don’t worry. We will delve into jam making, drying and preserving as the time comes. Rip out the lawn and plant the whole blasted thing.

  2. Oh Neighbor Nancy, I just love you to pieces! I’m serious, you’re really the best. if you were really my neighbor, I’d be hugging you right now! You are truly inspiring. I’m going to be cleaning out my coffee pot, steam cleaning my microwave & starting some indoor swiss chard now thanks to you. Oh, and I am seriously contemplating some baby chicks in the basement… i dunno.
    by the way,
    “want to see which yields more in the long run”… I don’t understand what you mean?

  3. Freeze it.
    Did I not publish the creamed swiss chard recipe?
    Nope. Sorry about that.
    Okay, just for you, it will be tomorrow’s Waiting-for-payday recipe.

    I say start it both ways. If it’s convenient, that is. Start some now inside and direct sow some memorial day weekend. I am actually doing that on the 4 ounce packet scale. I want to see which yields more in the long run.

    I just plain freeze it as is and have never had a problem with it.

    I’m actually off to plant some right now…funny.

  4. okay, i got two packets of swiss chard this afternoon at the dollar general store. do you think it’s better to start it early indoors or just direct sow? i’m in zone 5. also, can we blanch it & freeze it or just freeze it like spinach can be frozen? Because i bought some swiss chard at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago & still haven’t used it (haven’t found any recipes that sounded good with it). The interesting thing is that it still looks good in the crisper. so, that’s interesting too. but, i could just see myself growing this stuff & then not using it fresh (because I just don’t get around to it). But I could definitely see freezing it & using it later. what do you think?

  5. is swiss chard considered a perennial? i’ve heard yes & then when I looked at the seed packet, it didn’t say so. I’m in zone 5 I think. It’s funny, I’ve heard/read several people raving over swiss chard. so i’m beginning to feel like i’m missing the boat… i guess i will get on the bandwagon if it is a perenniel. anytime i only have to plant it once, then that’s good. 😉

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