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Cool season crops organic Swiss Chard

Updated on October 8, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Planting mixed chard seed

Thin this chard by removing whole plants or picking the outer leaves of each plant.
Thin this chard by removing whole plants or picking the outer leaves of each plant. | Source

Golden stems baby chard

Chard picked young with narrow golden stems grow fastes in cool weather. This harvest basket is destined for a srir fry.
Chard picked young with narrow golden stems grow fastes in cool weather. This harvest basket is destined for a srir fry. | Source

Can't beet chard

Not all spinach lovers like the taste of chard cooked alone. Combine chard with other leafy greens such as collards, spinach, or mustard greens when cooking greens.

Chard is a beet plant cultivated for it's leaves. It is closely related to spinach and has similar, but hardier growing habits. So called "Swiss" to identify this chard from French charde or chardon in a seed catalog. The name stuck and has been used for more than a hundred years.

Organic chard growing at the Rodale Institute.

Source

Direct sow chard

Planting

Chard is very adaptable and not particular about the soil. Drop a few seeds where ever you find empty space in your garden, flower bed or, container.

In spring - sow directly in the garden two weeks before your last frost date, or start seeds indoors three to four weeks before your last frost date and set seedlings out just as the last frost passes.

In fall - start seeds about 10 weeks before your first frost date, and set the seedlings out when they are four weeks old.

Choose a full sun location with good drainage. Seed and plants will rot in wet soil. Work organic matter into the soil are a couple of inches of compost. No additional fertilizes will be needed.

Plant seeds 1/2” deep and an inch or two apart. (about 8 to 10 seeds per foot of row.) Water the seeds and keep soil moist, not wet. Thin seedlings to 4 or 6 inches apart.

When seedlings are sufficiently spaced, begin harvesting by cutting off the outer leaves about ½ to 1 above the ground.

In Summer - To grow chard during the summer, it will appreciate some shade. Grow chard in the shade of taller plants. For example, peppers or tomatoes are tall enough to provide some protection for young chard.

You say chard

Chard goes by many names: Swiss chard, leaf beet, seakettle beet, and spinach beet. It is a beautiful large-leaf vegetable with wide flat stems resembling celery. If you like spinach, you will like chard. The flavor is mild yet earthy and sweet with slightly bitter undertones.

Chard is pronounced a couple of ways. Most often you will hear a gardener say "charred" or "shard." It's the gardeners choice.

Stir fry chard stems

Star stems cooking first before adding leaves that cook quickly.
Star stems cooking first before adding leaves that cook quickly. | Source

Cooking with chard

Chard is great for salads, steaming or stir fry. Small tender chard leaves can be eaten raw. They add a beet-like flavor to salads, wraps and sandwiches. Chard can be used in place of spinach in any recipe Green Rice, Spinach lasagne, bacon and chard quiche, although chard will need to be cooked a bit longer. When cooking older chard with big leaves, the stems are usually tough and should be discarded.

Mediterranean cooks use this nutrient dense vegetable much more than American cooks. They use the stems more often, where American chefs use the leaves most often. It is said European cooks will use the stalks to the point of discarding the leaves when preparing a dish.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Chard is second only to spinach in nutritional value. It is a powerhouse vegetable containing vitamins A, C, E and K. Chard is an excellent source of beta-carotene and the minerals manganese and zinc.

Grow summer chard in part shade

With the heat of a Missouri summer, this chard is thriving with part shade from the bean trellis.
With the heat of a Missouri summer, this chard is thriving with part shade from the bean trellis. | Source

Freezing Swiss chard

Freezing is the best method of preserving chard for later use.

Blanch chard leaves before freezing, they hold their color better. When freezing larger leaves, discard stems which will be soggy and bitter.

To Freeze:

  1. Rinse chard through three cool water changes, lifting leaves up and out of the water. Remove the stems from the leaves. Discard the stems.
  2. Fill sink half full of ice water.
  3. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Drop up to a pound of chard leaves in boiling water. Cover and blanch for 2 minutes.
  4. Lift chard out of the hot water and immerse in an ice water bath for 2 minutes.
  5. Drain. Chop if you wish.
  6. Pack in zipper freezer bags or freezer containers. No need to leave headspace when freezing in bags.
  7. Label, date and freeze.

Use within one year.

Dual benefits of chard

Tasty & Ornamental

The white stemmed varieties will out perform the bright colored stemmed varieties.

  • Big seller 'Bright Lights' is an AAS (All-America Selections) winner. Sporting bold gold, orange, pink, and some purple stems. A beautiful and ornamental edible.
  • Old favorite 'Fordhook Giant' is crispy, productive, and has snow-white stems.
  • Grown in part shade with plenty of water, I had a non stop harvest of chard leaves with 'Peppermint Stick' chard. 'Rhubarb' chard is so named for the bright red stems and veins, as is 'Scarlet Charlotte.'
  • It is tasty, but you will also find 'Pot of Gold,' serving ornamental duty in containers.

Add a couple of leaves, torn in bite size pieces, to mixed salad greens. Use those bright colored stems as stirrers in Bloody Marys. Include chard in green smoothies.

Organic chard seed sources

There are many more businesses that sell chard seed. I only list sources I have used with good results.

You might also like

  • How to grow organic onions.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Keep picking the outer leaves while small. The flavor will be mild and the greens will be tender.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    As a matter of fact, on this cold and snowy day in January, I took a package of last summers bounty out of the freezer. For tonight's dinner: potato soup with chard and sausage. Thank you for the votes.

  • Victoria Lynn profile image

    Victoria Lynn 

    4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

    I like any kind of greens. I think I've had chard only once. I need to have it more often--more variety! Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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