Swiss Chard: A Gardener's Dream
It's easy to grow, simple to care for...and good for you, too.
Chard is a veggie super-hero! It offers a powerful punch of vitamins and a variety of preparation options--from salads to cooked dishes. And chard makes a terrific stand-in for asparagus or spinach.
Five Reasons You Should Grow Chard
1. Chard produces in less-than-ideal soil and shade.
2. It resists most plant diseases, and insect infestations are fairly rare. (Though watch for deer in fall.)
3. Chard requires little care--just water regularly, and cut and discard any leaves that wilt or turn brown before you can harvest them.
4. Long after your asparagus, spinach, and other greens close up shop for the season, Swiss chard keeps on giving, right up to the first hard frost. A four- to six-foot row of plants spaced eight to ten inches apart will keep a family in the green all season.
5. It's pretty! Those bright stalks and shiny ribbed leaves look right at home in a flower border.
How to Grow Chard
Chard is super-easy to grow, making it an ideal choice for beginning gardeners--it thrives even in poor soil.
- Start seedlings indoors and transplant, or start from seed outdoors just before the last frost.
- You can begin harvesting as soon as the leaves grow large enough to use--young plants provide the most flavor.
- Don't worry about cutting them to about an inch above the soil or cutting stalks from the outside. These plants replenish for re-harvest again and again through the fall, and the leaves get tastier as the weather gets cooler.
Contact your local garden center or horticulture extension office to find out what grows best in your own backyard.
Chard: Chock-full of Nutrition
A one-cup serving of boiled Swiss chard contains a mere 35 calories, yet provides:
- Vitamin K--More than 600 percent of the recommended daily value. Important in blood clotting.
- Vitamin A--More than 100 percent of the recommended daily value. Important in visual health.
- Vitamin C--42 percent of the recommended daily value. Helps the immune system; protects cells against damage.
- Magnesium--47 percent of the recommended daily value. Helps bone health; important in muscle function.
- Potassium--20 percent of the recommended daily value. Helps maintain normal blood pressure levels; aids heart function.
- Iron--50 percent of the recommended daily value. Helps prevent anemia; can boost energy; carries oxygen in the blood.
- Vitamin E--22 percent of the recommended daily value. Acts as an antioxidant; helps protect cells against damage.
- Dietary fiber--14 percent of the recommended daily value. Can reduce high cholesterol levels; promotes intestinal health.
- Store unwashed chard in a plastic bag in the fridge; it will keep for several days.
- With a cold frame, you can usually harvest fresh chard through December--and avoid skyrocketing lettuce prices
Did You Know?
- Swiss chard is a member of the beet family--it just doesn't have a bulb.
- Swiss chard isn't native to Switzerland, but to the Mediterranean region.
- Chard is also considered a good source of copper, calcium, vitamin B2, and Vitamin B6.
What's Fresh in Winter?