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Alert: Making Pesticide Applications in School/Community Gardens

Chard

Chard is a beet that has been chosen for leaf production at the expense of storage root formation.

Chard will produce fresh white, yellow or red leaf stalks. It is an attractive ornamental that adds color to the vegetable garden.

Recommended Varieties

Red Midrib

Burgundy

Rhubarb

Ruby

White Midrib

Fordhook Giant

Geneva

Large White Broad-Ribbed

Lucullus

Perpetual

Winter King

Red, White or Yellow Midrib (mixed)

Rainbow

When to Plant

Chard should be directly seeded into the garden in early spring to mid-spring.

Spacing & Depth

Plant seeds 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep (8 to 10 seeds per foot of row) Thin seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart. An alternative method is to thin the seedlings to 2 to 3 inches apart; then, when they are large enough for greens (6 to 8 inches tall), harvest the excess plants whole, leaving a final spacing of 9 to 12 inches between plants.

Care

Maintain sufficient soil moisture to keep plants growing well.

Harvesting

Cut off the outer leaves 1 1/2 inches above the ground when they are young and tender (about 8-12 inches long). Be careful not to damage the terminal bud, at the center of the bottom of the growing rosette of foliage.

Selection & Storage

Chard goes by many names—Swiss chard, leaf beet, seakettle beet, and spinach beet to name a few. It is a beautiful large-leaf vegetable with wide flat stems resembling celery. The ruby variety is especially charming with its' vivid red stem with broad dark green leaves. If you like spinach, you will adore chard. The flavor is mild yet earthy and sweet with slightly bitter undertones.

The word "Swiss" was used to distinguish chard from French charde or chardon by nineteenth century seed catalogues publishers and the name stuck. Chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks but the first varieties have been traced back to Sicily. In the US the leaves are valued while European cooks value the stalks to the point of discarding the leaves or feeding them to animals.

Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender or after maturity when larger have slightly tougher stems. Chard is extremely perishable, so keep refrigerator storage time to a minimum. Store unwashed leaves in plastic bags in the crisper for 2 to 3 days. The stalks can be stored longer if separated from the leaves.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Chard packs a huge amount of vitamin A and it is naturally high in sodium. One cup contains 313 mg of sodium, which is very high for vegetables. Chard is also surprisingly high in other minerals as well, i.e., calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Nutrition Facts
(1 cup chopped)
Calories 35
Protein 3 grams
Carbohydrates 7 grams
Calcium 102 mg
Iron 4 mg
Magnesium 151 mg
Phosphorus 58 mg
Potassium 960 mg
Sodium 313 mg
Vitamin C 32 mg
Folate 15 mcg
Vitamin 5493 IU

Preparation & Serving

Young tender chard leaves can be eaten raw adding a beet-like flavor to salads and sandwiches. Chard can be used in place of spinach in any recipe, although chard will need to be cooked a bit longer. When cooking older chard, the stems require longer cooking time than the leaves.

Home Preservation

Chard leaves freeze well after blanching, but the stems become soggy and rather unappealing. Canned chard does not fare as well producing a product similar to canned spinach.

To freeze:

  1. Prepare a sink of cold water. Rinse chard through several changes of water lifting leaves out leaving sand and soil behind. Then separate the stems from the leaves.
  2. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Drop about one pound of whole leaves in boiling water, cover and blanch for 2 minutes (blanch stems for 3 minutes).
  3. Remove chard from water and immerse in an ice water bath for 2 minutes. Drain.
  4. Pack in zip-closure freezer bags or freezer containers, leaving no headspace. Label, date and freeze at zero degrees for up to one year.

Recipes

Wilted Swiss Chard with Garlic
Chard is a tender green and benefits from a brief cooking period. Wilted greens are simply sautéed in oil, covered and cooked without adding any cooking liquid. Tender greens such as beet greens and spinach can also be prepared in this manner.

2 pounds Swiss chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh lemon juice, optional

  1. Wash the greens in several changes of cold water. Fill the sink with cool water and swish the greens through the water one hand full at a time.
  2. Remove the stems and chop into one-inch pieces. Set aside.
  3. Stack the leaves and roll them into a scroll. Using a sharp knife cut across each scroll until all the greens are prepared.
  4. Mince the garlic and set aside.
  5. Heat a skillet or heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and chopped stems. Sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional 15 seconds.
  6. Add the wet chard one hand full at a time. Stir after each addition. After all the greens have been added, immediately cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the greens to cook or wilt about 5 minutes. They should be wilted and still bright green in color.
  7. Remove the lid and continue cooking over high heat until all the liquid has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired. Serves 4.