November 17, 2014

Get to Know Your Greens: Swiss Chard - Photo by Kevin Fogle (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Swiss chard tends to be an underutilized and sometimes underappreciated green, though it happily brightens the dull urban scenery with its colorful foliage. A member of beet family, this cool-weather crop is planted for its edible greens, which are densely packed with nutritious vitamins and antioxidants. With a diverse selection of gorgeous Swiss chard cultivars available today, you can bring beauty to your yard and fresh flavors to your dinner plate.

Choose Your Chard

Rhubarb Red Swiss chard, aka ruby red Swiss chard, features bright, crimson stalks with deep-green foliage interspersed by dark-red veins. While its namesake, rhubarb, shares a similar coloring, this chard doesn’t have the divisive, sour rhubarb flavor.

Fordhook Giant is a Swiss chard varietal with large green vegetation and white veins, supported by sturdy white stalks. This favorite heirloom is selected for its longevity, high production rate and ability to resist bolting, which can be an issue among red-stemmed Swiss chards.

Looking for truly stunning vibrant greens? Look no further than the Bright Lights Swiss chard, which features colorful stems that come in a range of gold, white, red and pink hues.

Grow Swiss Chard

Cultivating Swiss chard is a relatively simple, so I highly recommend it to both novice and experienced gardeners. When finding the right site for Swiss chard look at the amount of daylight the location receives. Swiss chard loves full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. If you live outside of the Deep South and you want to keep chard growing throughout the summer months, a partial shade location may be the best spot. Production will slow because of the shady conditions, but your plants have a better chance of survival with revived production in the fall.

Plant Swiss chard in rows with two or three seeds spaced every 7 to 8 inches at 1/2 inch deep. Most chard varieties are mature and ready for harvest somewhere around 50 to 60 days. Use the greens or stalks as soon after harvest as possible to enjoy the best flavor in soups or a range of Mediterranean dishes. The small outer leaves can also be picked when they are young for use in fresh salads.

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