Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
This is especially true if you sow, Beta vulgaris subsp, cicla, Swiss chard, in all its vibrant range of colors.
Swiss chard Beta vulgaris subsp, cicla
From bright yellow, blood red, white, crimson, peppermint stripe and fuchsia to lime green and coral stems, Swiss chard can bring a rainbow right from your own garden bed.
Also known as Silverbeet, leaf beet, and spinach beet, to name a few, Swiss chard is surprisingly way more familiar to the other side of the Atlantic than to our own American soils.
A member of the same family as spinach, Amaranthaceae, Swiss chard originated in Sicily then later was cultivated in England. It was listed among beets in 1848 when colonists brought it to America. (Swiss was added to its name to distinguish it from French spinach, 19th century).
Cultivated both as vegetable and ornamental, this hardy biennial plant provides not only succulent-ruffled-leaves but thick-sweet stems. It’s a wonderful substitute for spinach since, unlike spinach, it contains no oxalic acid.
While Swiss chard is low in calories, it’s high in magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. One cup of cooked greens has 700 times the RDA of vitamin K and 200 times that of A, all without the oxalic acid found in spinach.
You can indulge in this delicious nutritious green both raw and cooked. Have it as a salad, tossed in stir fries, used instead of spinach in lasagna or a frittata, made into pesto, have wraps with the steamed leaves, and more.
Swiss chard can be directly sown early in spring as soon as soil can be worked, or sown in late summer for fall crops. You can also start it inside, about a month before the last frost date.
Sow seeds outside in rows 14”-18” apart (inside in sterile seed mix in 5” squares covered with ½” seed mix), then thinly cover and gently pat down with a 1/2” of compost mix. Water thoroughly.
Once sprouted, thin direct sown seedlings to 8-12” apart, or similarly, plant out (after acclimating for several days) seedlings started indoors.
Keeping Swiss chard mulched, free of weeds, side dressed with rich compost, and watered thoroughly (once weekly unless very hot, then twice weekly), will give you a great rainbow to enjoy all season.
Unlike spinach, it will grow in both cool and summer heat, and survive mild frosts as well. Although as a biennial Swiss chard wants to set seed its second year, one can clip young leaves and stems in early spring until starting a new crop.
Why not sow your dreams with rainbow rows of Swiss chard? Not only will it bring a vibrant splash of color to your garden, but your menu as well.
Some Fun Facts:
Despite the “Swiss” reference, chard isn’t Swiss at all but a native of the Mediterranean.
It’s believed the name “chard” derived from the French word “cardoon” which is carde furthering the confusion with the thistle cardoon that’s not a leafy green at all.
Swiss chard’s age is unclear, but Aristotle mentioned using red-stalked chard around 350 BCE as a medicinal plant.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Spicy Sautéed Toasted Coconut Chard
1 lb chard, washed, with stems cut in small crosswise slices, leaves chopped
1 red organic onion, washed, peeled and cut in half vertically then cut in thin slices
4 large cloves of garlic, skinned and minced fine
1 2” piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
zest and juice of one organic lime
3 tablespoons sesame cooking oil (canola is good substitute)
½ cup unsweetened organic coconut flakes, toasted (toast in 350° oven about 8-10 minutes until light brown)
1/3 cup unsalted dry roasted almonds, (Trader Joes) chopped coarse
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon spicy sweet chili paste (Amy Chungs)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Heat cooking oil in heavy pot then toss in garlic, onion and chard stems. Sauté for about 3 minutes until limp. Add chard leaves and sauté until limp. Add in ginger, lime zest and juice, coconut milk, honey, chili paste and salt. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes until all is tender and juices have been reduced. Toss in toasted coconut and almonds and toasted sesame oil. Stir until well blended and serve hot. Makes about 4 servings as a side dish or atop rice as a base for grilled poultry or fish.