Chard is a wonderful green, chock full of vitamins. It can be eaten when small in salads. The large leaves can be harvested for steamed/cooked greens. The stems can be steamed or braised as a substitute for celery. Chard has been around for centuries. It hails from Sicily and was known as sicula. No one is quite sure how it became known as Swiss Chard.
It is also ornamental if you pick one of the many beautiful colored ribs-shades of red, orange, pink, yellow. They grow tall when planted in the ground so make a great focus in the back of the garden bed.
It is a perennial in our Midwest garden. It grows in all seasons. Only the coldest weather kills it back to the ground, if not covered. It is one of the first things to sprout in the spring.
Chard can grow in about any condition or soil, even shade. For the mildest taste, plant chard in fertile soil and do not let it get water stressed. It appreciates shade in the hottest time of summer; heat stress can cause it to take on a bitter taste. As it gets warmer, the white ribbed chard in our flower bed, perpetual spinach, remains mild in taste.
Chard handles the summer heat. Like most greens, the more you harvest it, the longer before it bolts. Even with seed heads, the taste does not become too strong when steamed. You should harvest the outer, lower leaves frequently to stimulate new center leave growth. For the most succulent leaves, harvest in the morning or right after a rain.
Chard is a power house of nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B6, thiamine, C, E, K; contains fiber, carotenes, chlorophyll, and several minerals-potassium, iron, manganese, calcium, selenium, zinc, niacin, folic acid and even protein. To top it off, chard is very alkalizing for the body and considered one of the most potent anti-cancer foods.
For more tips on organic small space and container gardening, visit Melodie’s blog.