I think I discovered chard about twenty years ago, most likely at the Willy Street Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin. I read somewhere (maybe right there in the co-op!) that chard could substitute for spinach in warmer weather. The stems I picked up were huge, and I think I sauteed them. They were tasty, and I still like chard that way. That’s not among the main reasons why I grow chard. I grow it because it is phenomenally reliable, beautiful, and versatile. It also happens to be incredibly nutritious.
I buy my chard seed from two of my favorite seed sources: Botanical Interests and Renee’s Garden. Botanical Interests has a great value pack of Ruby Chard. You can find other varieties here. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the chard. Renee’s Garden has several superb varieties too, including a container variety called Pot of Gold. In the Ozarks, chard will grow both summer and winter. If it freezes, it will generally grow back, or you can do like I do and grow it under plastic or glass. In the summer, chard will wilt in hot, dry weather, but it will recover quickly. To prepare your garden for chard, loosen the soil and mix in good organic matter. Now add a bit of lime. Chard, like its cousin beets, does not like acidic soil. Your next step is to soak your chard seed overnight. Again like beets, chard “seed” are actually a pod with several seed clustered inside. Soaking overnight will soften the pod and help the seeds germinate. Plant about one inch apart and ½ inch deep. In about 30 days, you’ll have tender baby chard for greens. Keep your chard cut well, always leaving at least one leaf, and it will continue to produce and produce.
Chard is, simply put, beautiful. Its rich green leaves with bright red, pink, and gold ribs make it an easy-to-maintain border at which even stuffy homeowners’ associations won’t turn up their noses. Yes, you can grow chard to eat but make your neighbors think you’re just beautifying the neighborhood.
Chard can be eaten at all stages and sizes. Even when the leaves reach giant size, you can still tear them up to make a nice salad. You can saute them, stuff them, eat them raw, put them on pizza, use them for spanakopita: the possibilities are so varied I can only start discussing them here.
Good for You
Even boiled, Swiss chard has 716% of your daily requirements of Vitamin K and almost 110% of the RDA of Vitamin A. It is also high in Vitamin Cs and Es. It has Vitamins B1,2, 3, 5 and 6 as well as 6.6% of the RDA of protein.
Why does chard wilt in the garden?
If your swiss chard is wilting in the summer sun and you see no signs of disease, it is not getting enough water. Yep, it’s been pushing 100 degrees here for the past week, getting closer and closer to that mark every day, but my chard still isn’t wilting. If your chard does wilt in the heat, give it a little drink. It’s also best if you cut it first thing in the morning and then immediately wash it, spin it mostly dry, and put it in the fridge in a sealed container. It should be peppy by suppertime.