HARVEST: Swiss Chard
Chard (Beta vulgarissubsp. cicla),is aleafy green vegetableoften used in Mediterranean cooking. In somecultivars, the leaf stalks are large and are often prepared separately from the leaf blade.
The leaf blade can be green or reddish in color; the leaf stalks also vary in color, usually white, yellow, or red.
Chard has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves and is considered to be one of the most healthful vegetables available, making it a popular addition to healthful diets (like other green leafy vegetables).
Chard has been around for centuries, but because of its similarity to beets and some other vegetables such as cardoon, the common names used by cooks over the centuries can be quite confusing
The word “Swiss” was used to distinguish chard from French spinachvarieties by 19th century seed catalogue publishers. Chard is very popular amongMediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.
Chard is a biennial. Clusters of chard seeds are usually sown, in the Northern Hemisphere, between April and August, depending on the desired harvesting period. Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Harvesting is a continuous process, as most species of chard produce three or more crops. Raw chard is extremely perishable.
Cultivars of chard include green forms, such as ‘Lucullus’ and ‘Fordhook Giant’, as well as red-ribbed forms such as ‘Ruby Chard’ and ‘Rhubarb Chard’. The red-ribbed forms are very attractive in the garden, but as a general rule, the older green forms tend to outproduce the colorful hybrids. ‘Rainbow Chard’ is a mix of other colored varieties that is often mistaken for a variety unto itself.
Chard has shiny, green, ribbed leaves, with petioles that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar.
Chard is a spring harvest plant. In the Northern Hemisphere, chard is typically ready to harvest as early as April and lasts through May. Chard is one of the hardier leafy greens, with a harvest season typically lasting longer than kale, spinach or baby greens