Swiss Chard

Q. When should Swiss chard be planted in my garden?

A. Since Swiss chard is a close relative of beets, plant it the same time you do beets. Generally seeds should be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average last killing spring frost. In all but the northern parts seed can be sown for harvesting through the winter and most of the following year. Swiss chard is unusual in that quite often a single planting can be harvested for well over a year or perhaps into the second year if the flower stalks are removed as they develop.

Q. How should Swiss chard be harvested?

A. Swiss chard is grown for its tender, vitamin-enriched leaves. The plants grow 1 to 2 feet tall and the crinkled leaves have prominent central ribs. These ribs can be cut from the rest of the leaves and cooked and served like asparagus. The remainder of the leaf is eaten as greens. For harvesting, cut the leaves at the base of the plant with a sharp knife. The undisturbed inner leaves should continue to grow and be ready for picking in a few days. Pick and discard any old leaves. If they remain on the plant, they will decrease production.

Q. How is Swiss chard used?

A. Both the leaves and the central leaf ribs are consumed. The stalks can be cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths and simmered in boiling, salted water until tender. They are generally served with butter and a touch of wine and vinegar. The leaves should be chopped coarsely and cooked quickly in just the water that clings to them. They are often prepared with butter and salt. A popular recipe for Swiss chard involves serving the cooked greens in a hot bacon and wine/vinegar dressing sprinkled with shredded hard- boiled eggs.

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