Sunday, April 4, 2010

SWISS CHARD - summer greens

Swiss Chard – easy to grow! – takes southern heat! – strong like ox?

Part of simple living is learning how to adapt what you want to what you have. I am constantly experimenting in the home garden to match my dreams of a lush English homestead to the sub-tropical weather I have to work with. As is said before, I was late in getting most of my spring garden planted this year. I am praying for nature to grant me a gentle spring and keep the 90 degree weather until June. Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I have decided to experiment. Even in the best of years, it is hard to have any salad greens in Florida after winter and the early spring have left us. Scientifically, lettuce seeds have a natural system that prevents them from even germinating once the soil begins to warm up. Apparently, unlike me – the lettuce is wise enough to know when “kind of late” is too late.

Never one to give up easily, I have been researching alternatives. The result is a brave new plot of Swiss chard I just planted this weekend. Swiss chard is a fairly tough large leaved plant that resembles loose spinach in taste. It is so attractive and trouble free that it is commonly used as an ornamental. In fact there is one variety called “bright lights” that is so colorful it is almost garish. But the key point for me is its ability to handle the heat of summer.

If my research holds true, chard should be able to deal with the heat much longer than regular salad greens. Rumor has it that it has even made it through the San Antonio summer. I am excited to see if it is true. Of course, Swiss chard is hardly a substitute for true salad greens like romaine and leaf lettuce. However, it is not as one sided as collards are. As much as I love collards, I cannot bear them in a salad and view people who eat them that way as touched by some strange malady. Some people say that chard – like collards can last for more than a year and still be productive. I have had collards last for 3 to 4 years before succumbing so this will also bear watching.

I sowed the greens in my “salad in a drawer” method and planted a 2’ X 3’ intensive patch of red and green Swiss chard. All that awaits me now is to wait and see. Swiss chard is an old heirloom plant and it may be just the thing I need for summer greens. In the meantime, I will do some research on recipes using chard. If anyone has experience with chard or any good recipes, please share them.


  1. Select the newest and tiniest leaves for salad and use the larger leaves for steaming (add a pinch of nutmeg and melted butter to the steamed chard). The little leaves used fresh goes wonderfully with tiny bits of crisp bacon, chopped tomato and a French Dressing to which you add some tomato ketchup. Chard (aka Silver beet in other parts of the western world) will last through 40 degrees C days and will last at least a year.

  2. This sounds better and better. thank you so very much for the feedback. I was betting it would be good with a stir fry also. And yes it is actually first cousins with the beet. The mother plant was bred for roots and became the beet and bred for leaves and became chard.

  3. Swiss chard is DELISH sliced, & sauteed simply with garlic, a bit of freshly grated lemon peel, a 3-finger-pinch of salt, until just wilted. Oh, sooooo good & maybe 10 minutes prep-to-plate. :)

    Eat as is, or save it to bake on flatbread that you make with your dough. :}

  4. Bright lights are beautiful. I got some fresh picked from a Thonotossassa farm--have lasted 2 + weeks in the fridge so far. Just sauteed them--ooh, so good.

  5. My plants just peeeked out of the soil today. I am excited to try this new veggie in my own garden.


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