I'm just going to come right out and say it. I'm sick of hearing about "kale." It's everywhere - kale salad, kale chips, kale juices, kale cookies, blah, blah, blah. Listen kale, you've had enough time in the spotlight. It's time to move over and make room for Swiss chard.
Did you know that Swiss chard isn't Swiss at all, but has Mediterranean origins? A Swiss botanist was the first to identify it, so the Swiss got the title. I suppose it doesn't matter much as it's also known as silverbeet, Roman kale, rainbow chard, strawberry spinach, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, seakale beet, and mangold. Whew....I'll just stick to "Swiss chard" for this post.
Swiss chard is PACKED with nutrition. It's a great source of vitamins A, C & K, magnesium, potassium, iron, minerals, dietary fiber, and protein. It's great for just about everyone (unless you're prone to kidney stones...you might want to avoid having too much chard as it is also rich in oxalates).
This year, I didn't start my chard from seed, I picked up a few starter plants at the Maplewood Garden Club sale. If you've never been and you live in the area, reserve time on the first Thursday - Saturday in May and get yourself over there. The sale benefits the Maplewod Garden Club, an organization who does many projects around town, from beautification and education to youth programs. If you live in an area farther away, check out your local sources and garden clubs who may have similar sales. I only picked up a few plants this go around because I was still getting over my mistake of growing too many leafy lettuce greens last year. Unlike lettuce, however, Swiss chard can be cooked in a variety of ways, so next year, I'm going for broke and growing a lot more of it. In fact, I may sow some seeds directly for a fall crop. To do this, you want to direct sow seeds about 10 weeks before your first frost is predicted.
Its colorful stalks and large leaves that tower over the garden are beautiful to look at and tasty to eat. Swiss chard grows well in the ground or in containers and unlike many other leafy greens, tolerates both hot and cool temps well (but won't withstand hard freeze).
Growing Swiss Chard
If you're going to directly sow Swiss chard, you want to start in spring, about 2-3 weeks before your last frost date. Swiss Chard can tolerate some frost, but may bolt if exposed to prolonged freezing temps. If you're starting seeds indoors, start them about 3-4 weeks before the last frost date. For fall harvest, if starting indoors, start about 10 weeks before your first predicted frost date or direct sow seeds about 4-6 weeks prior to the first predicted fall frost date.
Harvesting Swiss Chard
Leaves can grow big and tall - you can start to harvest when they get about 6-8 inches tall or let them mature longer and grow bigger. Cut the stalks of the leaves about 2 inches above the crown.
Cooking Swiss Chard
You can eat the leaves raw or do something as simple as saute them with olive oil, salt and pepper (or throw in a few red pepper flakes for a kick). Typically, the ribs and stalks are removed and the greens eaten. However, I find chopping the stalks into small pieces and sauteing them until tender alleviates some of the bitterness.
If you're looking for a tasty way to cook your Swiss chard, check out my recipe for a Rustic Swiss Chard Tart. It's great for any breakfast, brunch or lunch dish. It contains simple ingredients and it's prepared in a way that doesn't require that you slave over the detail of cute little tarts. These are rustic, rough-around-the-edges and fun to make.
I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).
I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)
This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.
In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself.
With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix DMC-ZS15 compact camera.)
I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.
Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!