Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris) is my favorite winter vegetable. Not only is it easy to grow, it comes in great fun colors that brighten up a sometimes dreary winter garden. At Maas we have both Swiss Chard plants and many varieties of seeds including the silver and colored stem varieties so you can pick how you want to start your plants. All of our seed companies have many varieties of chard so you can grow whatever color your heart desires. I have read that the white or silver stemmed chards are hardier but I have not found that to be the case. All the chards I have tried have done well in my garden.
Chard is an old relative to the beet. Although chard does not have a beet root the leaves are very tasty and nutritious. Chard has been grown for centuries and is the green leafy vegetable of choice for many regions. Swiss Chard is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains many beneficent minerals that the body needs for maintaining strong bones. This quality makes chard especially good for women. Grow chard in a rich bed with compost and an organic fertilizer such as Microlife 6-2-4. Chard does best in part sun to part shade although it can be grown in full sun in the winter. Seeds can be started now for crops all winter long. Place plants and thin seeds to about 8 to 12 inches apart as the plants can reach a foot across when full grown. Chard can withstand frost and mild freezes which means it can last through most of our winters. It will grow in the summer but hot weather turns chard bitter so replace it with something else in your summer garden. You can begin harvesting the leaves when they are about 6 to 8 inches tall. Use a sharp knife to cut them off the plant leaving 1 to1 1/2 inches of the leaf on the plant. This encourages new leaf growth for cut and come again leaves.
Prepare Chard any way that you prepare Spinach. It can be used in salads raw or in soups that call for greens. Braised and sautéed chards are especially good. The stems of chard can be cooked like asparagus or chopped into soup. The brightly colored stems make very pretty salads when chopped like celery. Substitute Chard for Spinach, Kale, Collards or Mustard greens for something different on your dinner table. Try chard in your winter garden this year for a brightly colored, tastier garden.
Green leafy vegetable
Best harvested at 12 inches. Can grow bigger but gets bitter
Fertilize with organic fertilizer
Dark green leaves with many colors of stalks
Can be grown in part shade to full sun