Chard is a tall leafy green vegetable commonly referred to as Swiss chard and scientifically known as Beta vulgaris. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile with a flavor that is bitter, pungent and slightly salty. Although Swiss chard is available throughout the year, its peak season runs from June through August when it is at its best and in the greatest abundance at your local farmers market.
The succulent leaves of Swiss chard can be used much like spinach. You can even use the big one to wrap "Cabbage rolls'. The colorful stems can be cooked like asparagus. Enjoy the small leaves in salad. They grow easily and well in our climate and stand in the garden for many months, giving a long harvest from one planting.
Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean but it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around and ranks second only to spinach in total nutrient richness. With its very good supply of calcium and its excellent supply of magnesium and vitamin K, chard provides standout bone support.
Start with sowing sees 1/2 inch deep, spaced 4-12 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart.
Swiss chard prefers loose, deep, and fertile soil rich in organic matter. Plenty of consistent moisture is required, especially as plants grow larger. It grows best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade in summer. A organic fertilizer or compost tea applied twice during summer will keep chard growing well.
Harvest for salad mix is best when the seed has been sown densely so baby leaves can be cut. Cut individual mature stalks using the larger outer ones first. These are best for cooking and sautéing.
To prepare ---rinse Swiss chard under cold running water. do not soak chard as this will result in the loss of water-soluble nutrients to the water. Remove any area of leaves that may be brown, slimy or have holes. Stack the leaves and slice into 1 inch slices until you reach the stems. Only the white stems of the Fordhook variety of chard are tender enough to eat. cut stems into 1/2 slices discarding the bottom 1 inch. It is not recommended to cook the stems of the varieties with colored stems. Do not wash Swiss chard before storing as exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place chard in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the chard, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible. Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days. the Nutrient Rich Way of cooking Swiss chard recommends 2 minutes of boiling to free up acids and allowing them to leach into the boiling water as this brings out a sweeter taste from the chard. Dispose of the boiing water as the stock is high acid content. Whether you chose baby leaves in a salad or mature leaves sautéed Swiss chard adds to a delightful meal. ---www.Italiangardenseed.com
Serving idea--Next time you make a Grilled Cheese---grill some freshly cut Swiss Chard, and place it on your sandwich. Grilled Gruyere cheese and sautéed chard will be a meal favorite.