My friend and reader, Jack, and I had a brief conversation via email about chard. I thought you might be interested in our exchange.
Jack writes, “Going to try chard of some type this year also for the first time. Will probably just grab whatever variety is in the Burpee seed rack at the Home Depot. But just in case they have more than 1 variety, do you have a standout variety that you prefer?”
Here are my thoughts about chard — just a bit more detailed than what I replied to Jack and with pictures which say a lot more than additional words.
I’ve only grown chard for about 4 years. Hopefully I’ll never be without it again.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, id markers seem to disappear in my garden and I loose track of which variety is which. I grow both smooth leaf and crinkled leaf. The leaves of the crinkled varieties seem to get a lot larger. I especially like that when I need a bountiful harvest to sauté.
How I Plant
Chard is not something I fill the entire bed with, but rather start several varieties and put them in here and there throughout the garden. (But you can certainly fill up a bed if you want. 🙂 )
It seems every garden bed has its own set of circumstances and sometimes the same type of plant will thrive in one and not in another. And yes, sometimes they thrive in all of them — but I like spreading them around just in case.
Back up for Other Greens
Chard is my backup for all my other greens. When mache is seeding, or lettuce low, or spinach bolting my focus is on the chard. The young leaves (and even the older ones) are delicious and tender enough to use for salads or sandwiches or however you’d use the other greens.
When leaves get large (and some varieties can get huge) I think they’re particularly delicious sautéd in olive oil and garlic. Sometimes I’ll toss some spelt or whole spaghetti with oil and vinegar, and a bit of organic grated parmesan and then top off with the sautéd chard.
Chard produces a LONG time. And if you don’t harvest on a regular basis it’ll wait for you.
In the summer when harlequin bugs turn up to deface my brassicas, the Chard can get pretty shabby. I’ve seen it look “not worth having” and make a comeback to beauty in cooler temperatures in late summer and fall. And even when it’s at its worst, it still produces beautiful new leaves that you can use.
More Than One
I hope Jack (and maybe you) will decide to grow more than one variety. Each has something just a bit different to offer regarding performance.
Having eatable leaves produced from spring through fall is not a bad deal. On a scale of 1 to 10 for plants that I want in my garden, I’ll give it a 10.
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