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Garden Spotlight: Swiss Chard

This year we decided to grow Swiss Chard over the cold winter season in our area. (Zone 10a, The Central Coast of California) Temperatures in our area seldom drop below freezing but they have been in the mid 30's and low 40's. We've also had an above average rainy Winter after several years of drought. We direct sowed the chard seeds right before our first frost date, around the middle of December, knowing that as the weather progressed, they would be one of the first things up in the January / February garden. This year our greens progression started with arugula followed by our spinach and now the beautiful chard and kale. We are so lucky to live where gardening can happen nearly all year round. 

This year we tried a Chard Variety called Bright Lights; beautiful yellows, reds and a beet colored pink. They are so beautiful in the garden with their celery type stalks and dark green tops. From its name, Swiss Chard, you would think it began its life in Switzerland but it was named SWISS chard because the botanist that discovered it was from Switzerland. Swiss chard is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, K as well as iron, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber. But be careful if you're prone to kidney stones because it is also contains between 200 and 640 oxalates. Remember your Mom telling you to be sure to "Eat The Rainbow" when it comes to vegetables? That's because coloration of fruits and vegetables are caused by specific phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun’s harmful rays, and other threats. In addition, each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients. Today I pulled a purple carrot and was surprised to find bright orange insides and the most wonderful taste! But let's hold that veggie for another time. 

So what does chard taste like? Chard tastes "earthy", something like beets or spinach depending on if you are eating the stem or the leaves. It is a distant relative of the beet so it should come as no surprise. You will find it served in many Mediterranean Dishes because it blends well with white beans, polenta, chickpeas, lentils, eggs and much more. At the end of this article, I'm going to be including ways to incorporate Chard into your diet. 

Both the stems and leaves can be eaten and cooked separately or together. Allow for the stems to have a head start in the cooking process and toss the green leaves in at the end. I like to do a frittata with diced stems, onions, garlic, bacon bits, cut up chard leaves and scrambled eggs with a sharp feta cheese mixed in with it. So GOOD!!

Chard is an extremely versatile kitchen garden veggie and can be boiled, sauteed, roasted in the oven mixed in with other veggies, pastas and beans. And as you can see from the list below, it can even be served up in a dessert tart! 

To grow chard in your garden you will need a spot featuring full sun to partial shade. Plants can be  spaced 12" to 18" apart in a row and love a soil PH between 6.0 to 6.8 with organic material mixed in. They require 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week and adding a mulch layer keeps the stems clean when they are watered.

Here are a few ways you can begin enjoying your chard. Whether from your own garden or eaten in season from the local Farmers Market, I think you will find Chard to be a tasty and healthy addition to your diet.

Fermented Rainbow Chard Stems

Simple Swiss Chard Pasta
Braised White Beans with Chard
Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup With Swiss Chard
Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart
31 Creative Swiss Chard Recipes



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