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Old 11-02-2007, 11:15 AM   #1
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All About Chard


Courtesy of GrinGod on Flickr

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.

Many believe that the word "Swiss" was used to distinguish chard from French charde or chardon by nineteenth century seed catalog publishers and the name stuck. The Swiss Chard actually received its name after an epidemic of flea beetles (A. nigriscutis) had an immensely destructive impact on the particular plant now known as the Swiss Chard, and it was named for its resulting resemblance to swiss cheese.

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.

Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow and red depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. The leaves are generally treated in the same way as spinach and the stems like asparagus. Fresh young chard can also be used raw in salads.

Cultivars of chard include green forms, such as 'Lucullus' and 'Fordhook Giant,' as well as red-ribbed forms such as 'Ruby Chard,' 'Rainbow Chard,' and 'Rhubarb Chard.'

Cultivation
Chard will grow in ordinary garden soil, and, like beets, it is best to keep the pH above 6. Plant seeds 1/2 to 3/4 inches deep. 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. Chard is not susceptible to bolting and can tolerate both hot and cold conditions. Individual well grown plants can become quite large, with leaves two feet tall, but crowded plants will still produce well.

Harvesting
The plant is useful to the home gardener since it can be harvested, leaf by leaf, well into the fall and even after the first frosts. Cut off the outer leaves 1 1/2 inches above the ground when they are young and tender (about 8-12 inches long).

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


Courtesy of Josef Meixner on Flickr

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Last edited by smgardener; 12-08-2007 at 06:48 PM.
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