“Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), also known as Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, or Mangold, is a leaf vegetable, and is one of the cultivated descendants of the Sea Beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima. While used for its leaves, it is in the same species as the garden beet, which is grown primarily for its roots.
The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by nineteenth century seed catalog publishers. The chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.”
By early May, having survived the killing frost of April during Easter weekend, sorry for bringing it up yet again, I just want to sing the praises of the toughness of the chard you see, the stems are elongated and colorful. On the left behind the chard is a parsley plant going to seed. The pink flowers are volunteer poppies, we shall call them bread poppies.
By the end of May, the outer leaves have been harvested. We take those to use in cooking, removing the stems, roughly chopping, quick saute, then into freezer bags to be used for soups, stews, etc. The harvest is repeated throughout the summer, keeping the plants looking fresh and giving us lots of vitamins. The poppies have their adorable seedpod heads, the verbena bonariensis and malva zebrina are blooming. This is a bit of a wild bed, once used as the compost heap for spent flowers so full of seeds they were not allowed in the cleaner compost pile. It is always a surprise what will arise there, the chard lines the front to give it some sense of order.
September shows the black, shiny peppers, although the plants are small, the chard has provided many meals and is looking slightly ratty tatty. Salvia coccinea adds some zesty color, looking too pretty to be pulled out, even though it is crowding the peppers.
Soon the old plants will be tossed into the compost bin, for we have the new replacements growing happily in the greenhouse. This group is in the chicken grit, it makes for a clean stem, no seed starting mix splash up to dirty the red stalks, red from the moment of germination. This packet was Ruby Chard, no yellows, pinks or oranges. We love those other colors, but there is a design scheme in the works for this year’s potager, the beautiful vegetable garden.
The front half of this tray is all ruby chard, four sections times nine plants in each gives us thirty six to use in some fancy way in the potager. If you want to know what is in the back four sections, why it is the baby dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, a rousing success along with the chard. Don’t you love growing plants from seeds that are so willing to cooperate?
As promised, the long shot, this time of the greenhouse/sunroom south facing shelves, the best exposure for raising the seedlings. The east side contains the orchid shelves, not as intense a light on that side with the sun still fairly low in the horizon, shining directly into these windows. Later this spring the sun will be higher and a large maple tree nearby will give some shade to the greenhouse so the plants don’t cook under glass. The bottom portion of the south facing windows have black plastic screening, the seeds are started on the lower shelves there, then moved to the upper shelves when the time is right for stronger rays to strengthen the plants, readying them for the move outside on warmer days next month. There will be some extra work to get the trays of babies hardened off, in and out, under the glass top table on the deck. By late March the chard will be in the ground. The plan needs to be thought through how to use the red color to maximize it’s beauty potential in relation to the onions, peppers, peas, beans, radishes, carrots, squash and tomatoes. Hmmm, can’t think of design when those veggies are swimming around in my head, pulling the bell to one’s stomach. What’s for dinner?