Swiss chard isn’t native to Switzerland. Its actual homeland of chard lies further south, in the Mediterranean region; in fact, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle wrote about chard in the fourth century B.C. This is not surprising given the fact that the ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, honored chard for its medicinal properties. Chard got its common name from another Mediterranean vegetable, cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French got the two confused and called them both “carde.”
Chard is known to be a nutritional powerhouse vegetable packed with vitamins, nutrients and health benefits. Red Swiss chard contains high levels of vitamins C, K, E, beta-carotene, calcium and the minerals manganese and zinc. As noted, it also contains betalain. Betalin pigments have repeatedly been shown to support activity within the body’s detoxification process, activating and processing unwanted toxic substances. Betalians are not heat-stable, though, so longer cooking times can decrease their presence.
Spacing: 20 – 40 cm
Height: 1′ – 2′
Optimum Soil Ph: 6.0 to 7.0
Days To Maturity: 53 – 60
Sowing Method: Outdoors
- Plant chard seeds 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost date. Continue planting seeds at 10-day intervals for a month.
- For a fall harvest, plant chard seeds again about 40 days before the first fall frost date.
- Before planting, mix 1 cup of 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil for every 20 feet of single row.
- Plant the seeds 1/2 to 3/4 of inch deep in well-drained, rich, light soil. Space the seeds about 18 inches apart in single rows or 10 to 18 inches apart in wide rows. Sow eight to ten seeds per foot of row.
- When the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin them out so that they are 4 to 6 inches apart or 9 to 12 inches apart if the plants are larger.
- Water the plants evenly to help them grow better. Water often during dry spells in the summer. You can also mulch the plants to help conserve moisture.
- For the best quality, cut the plants back when they are about 1 foot tall. If the chard plants become overgrown, they lose their flavor.
- Leaf minor
- You can start harvesting when the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut off the outer leaves 1-1/2 inches above the ground with a sharp knife.
- If you harvest the leaves carefully, new leaves will grow and provide another harvest.
- You can cut the ribs off the chard leaves and cook them like asparagus.
- The rest of the leaves are eaten as greens. You can cook them like spinach or eat them raw.
- You can store chard in the refrigerator in ventilated plastic bags.