Chard, also called silverbeet, has been a staple in Mediterranean diets for centuries. The tender young leaves are added to salads or pureed, while mature leaves and stems are delicious chopped and steamed or added to soups and stews. The frost-hardy plants may be harvested from spring until early winter, if picked regularly.
With a perfect score of 1000 on the ANDI or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, you know that chard is a winner. The mild-flavored leaves are loaded with vitamins K, A, C and D as well as important minerals and other antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxifying phytonutrients. It may also help protect against some cancers and cardivascular diseases and boost immunity.
Chard is one of the most beautiful garden plants and can easily be grown in the flower garden as well as the vegetable patch. Depending on the variety, the upright clusters of leaves may be smooth or ruffled, and the stalks and leaf veins white, yellow, orange, pink or deep red.
Sow seeds directly in the garden or in pots when the soil is at least 50º or warmer. Plant seeds 4″ apart and 1/2″ deep. Protect from frost to prevent early bolting. Thin plants to 12″ apart before they begin to crowd each other. Add the thinnings to a stir fry, salad or green drink.
Harvest & Keeping
Snip off individual outer leaves beginning when plants are about 3″ tall. You can also cut the entire plant to about an inch above the crown and allow it to regrow. Use the youngest leaves fresh in salads and purees. Cook older leaves by steaming, sauteeing with garlic or adding to soup or stew. Cooking neutralizes the oxalic acid that some people find objectionable.
Patients taking anti-coagulants, such as wayfarin, should avoid chard due to its high vitamin K content. People with kidney stones may want to avoid chard and other vegetables containing high levels of oxalic acid.