Saturday, May 6, 2017

For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

"Bright Lights" chard
Saturday, May 6, 2017

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.  Chard also does well in containers for small spaces.
Potted chard
It is a tender perennial in our Midwest garden.  It grows in all seasons.  One of the hardiest Swiss Chard is the heirloom Fordhook and Perpetual.  Only the coldest weather kills it back to the ground, if not covered.  It is one of the first greens 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 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, more spinach like than chard.  It is also the most cold hardy, surviving through Zone 6 winters.

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.  Growing summer salads

Chard is easy to preserve.  Simply harvest the leaves, clean, dry and freeze.  I lay out my leaves on a cookie sheet and quick freeze, then put into freezer bags.  Freezing the extras for winter  Don't forget to label with the type and date; frozen greens all look about the same.  You'll want to use the oldest first.

Baby "Perpetual Spinach" Chard

Chard is a power house of nutrients.  It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, thiamine, C, and 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.  SELF has a cool nutritional database for details on nutritional values of food.  For chard, Chard nutrition info

You can either start chard from seed  Indoor seed starting tips  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times  Or you can pick up plants at big box stores or your neighborhood nursery.  Nowadays, they have many colors and varieties available as plants.  If you want more unusual types, seeds are a great way to explore.

If this is your first year gardening, here are a couple of gardening blogs to help you get started.  For a garden bed, Easy kitchen garden  For a pot garden in a small space, Decorative container gardening for edibles

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