Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris var cicla) Information
By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
About Swiss ChardSwiss chard is an annual leafy garden vegetable that is recognized by its colorful stalks and crumpled leaves. It is used in salads as a main leafy ingredient, as well as in main dishes as an attractive garnish.
Site PreparationSwiss chard requires a fertile, well-cultivated soil that is enriched with plenty of compost and well rotted manure. The soil can be worked immediately following the last frost in the spring and it is not necessary to wait for the ground to warm since this plant thrives in cool weather. The plants do best in full sunlight, although they can tolerate limited amounts of shade.
Special FeaturesSwiss chard exhibits attractive and colorful stalks with veins of the same color flowing into the crumpled deep-green leaves. Both the stalk and the leaves are edible and enhance a variety of meals with their delicious flavor. The plant presents its uniqueness with its color and design, whether in the garden or on your plate.
Choosing a VarietyThere are several varieties of Swiss chard that all require the same growing conditions and harvest, but have a slight variance in flavor.
* Burpee's Rhubard Chard has deep red colored edible stalks, giving it a close resemblance to rhubarb. The red veins extend through the dark green leaves adding a further attraction to its already distinct appearance as a main dish garnish.
* Orange Fantasia bears vivid golden orange stalks and veins against dark green, semi savoy leaves. The stems are thick and crisp and are the pleasing chard flavor that is often found in salads.
* Fordhook Giant is a popular Swiss chard, a vigorous variety noted for its dark green, wrinkled leaves and thick white stems. It bears a mild flavor and is suitable for many salad dishes.
PlantingPlants can be placed into the ground in the spring as soon as the soil is thawed enough to be worked, and should be spaced anywhere from 1 to 3 inches apart. Seeds should be sown thinly, about 1/2 inch into the soil. Once the seedlings have developed into small plants, they should be thinned out to about 1 to 3 inches apart. The rows should be 12 to 24 inches apart.
CareSwiss chard requires regular feedings of a well-balanced fertilizer or compost tea, as well as regular watering.
Harvest and StorageThe vitamin-enriched leaves of the Swiss chard are very tender and flavorful, and can be picked as soon as they are big enough to eat. When the leaves are picked regularly, the plant will continue to produce more tasty leaves throughout the summer. However, once the stalk is cut, that completes the harvest for that plant.