Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Swiss Chard: Planting Guide, Harvesting, & Recipes

Swiss chard is an often overlooked super food.  There are many good reasons to grow chard:  it's an easy to grow crop,  it's packed with nutrition, and edible as well as ornamental. It's beautiful on it's own or companion planted with onion, marigolds, or zinnias.  It is also stunning in pots.

Rhubarb Swiss Chard

  It's leaves look a little like spinach but its stems and leaves come in shades of pink, red, yellow, white, and orange.  Unlike most spring crops it tolerates summer heat and will produce for you through the first hard freeze. If the red ribbed chard reminds you of beets it's because it is in the same family. Both the stalks and the leaves can be eaten.
Cardinal Swiss Chard

Planting Guide

Chard can be planted in spring but prefers a warmer soil temperature than kale and other greens so plant it about a 2-4 weeks after kale depending on the weather.  It will overwinter but it is biennial which means the second season it will produce seed.  Plan on replanting each year. However the spring crop will continue to give you harvests through fall.

This is Fordhook Chard which is milder than the colored chards.

I've never had good results starting seeds indoors so I recommend direct seeding in the garden.  I choose a site with a little afternoon shade. If using a square foot method plant one per square foot.  In a row they can be 8-12 inches apart. As with all garden crops incorporate organic matter in the soil along with an organic dry fertilizer such as bone meal and blood meal.   

Chard is not a very demanding plant.  Be sure it gets sufficient water when getting established and watch for slugs. Other than that it has very few pest and disease problems. Be sure to mulch around the seedlings when they have 4-6 leaves and then enjoy harvests throughout the summer and fall.

Orange Fantasia my favorite!

Nutritional Benefits

If you combine the health benefits of spinach and beets you have Swiss chard.  Like beets, chard contains the compound betalains.  These compounds give chard stems, ribs, and veins the red color.  Betalains are an antioxidant,  anti-inflammatory, and support liver detoxification.  The leaves contain the antioxidant kaempferol which benefits the heart and balances blood sugar. Swiss chard also packs a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  It is third to kale and spinach in vitamin K levels.  I'm predicting it will be the next super food ban wagon everyone jumps on. (Power of Plants, Flowers & Wylde)

Break off the outer leaves at any stage. Young leaves are good eaten raw and older leaves can be used in stir fry's, sauteed and added to pasta dishes. Basically chard can be substituted in any recipe calling for spinach. 

When I harvest chard I put it in jars with water and use it in 2-3 days.

Recipes ideas:

How about trying a Swiss chard smoothie! 

Swiss Chard Smoothie

Chard leaves with the stalks removed (antioxidants, vitamins)
Frozen fresh pineapple chunks (contains bromelian)
Juice from a lemon or lime (detoxifies the liver)
Scoop of flavored Greek yogurt
A liquid either water or a juice

Whole Wheat Penne with Chard, Artichoke Hearts, and Sausage

I love this recipe. I adapted it from Martha Stewart's Living Magazine.

12 oz whole wheat penne
Olive oil
1/3 lb of sausage
Small bunch of chard
1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 c sun dried tomatoes
1 small can of tomato sauce (I use my own canned tomato sauce)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Boil water and cook the pasta.  Add the sun dried tomatoes the last few minutes of cooking.
Add oil to a nonstick pan and cook the sausage.  When cooked added the artichoke heart, garlic, and stalks of chard.  When stalks are tender add the chard leaves, tomato sauce and spices. Simmer to blend to spices. Drain pasta and pour sausage chard mixture over pasta.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy! 

Swiss Chard Dippers

1 bunch of chard (about 8 leaves)
1 tsp garlic minced
2 cups stuffing mix
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.  Remove stems from chard and finely chop the leaves.  Steam for 2 minutes or until wilted.  Squeeze dry.  Mix dry ingredients. Add butter and eggs and mix well.  Use a small cookie scooper to shape into 1 inch balls.  Bake for 20 minutes.
Peppermint Swiss Chard
Varieties of Swiss Chard

Rhubarb A striking purplish stalk and red veined leaves distinguish this popular variety. It is characterized by quick growth, yields over a long period if frequently cut, and has a pleasing flavor

Peppermint White and pink stalks with tender leaves

Giant Fordhook  This old favorite is still a superior variety in several ways--thick leaves, dark green color, and a compact plant with a nice white stalk.

Pink Lipstick  This is a gorgeous vegetable, with striking bright magenta stems and succulent savoyed leaves. Use it in salad mixes for brilliant color.

Cardinal An improved rhubarb chard, developed in Switzerland.Stems are a deep ruby red, and plants are large and productive. It has a darker color on larger plants compared to Rhubarb chard. Its narrower, savoyed leaves have a mild, slightly sweet flavor that is as nice raw as it is cooked.

Orange Fantasia Another gorgeous new chard that not only has great baby leaves for salads, but also holds its color when cooked. The stalks are a brilliant orange while leaves are a light icy green

If it sounds like  these descriptions are from a seed catalog they are. Pinetree Garden Seeds

I thought their descriptions would definitely convince you to try this crop and enjoy its beauty as when as nutritional value.


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