Chard, whatever the colour or name ( silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, seakale beet, and mangold to name a few!) is actually all the same plant no matter what it looks like! I think it’s one of the most rewarding leafy veggies to grow, and as a colour-lover, it’s also a beautiful addition to the veggie patch, in decorative containers, or grown mixed in with non-edibles.
The leaves of the plant are always green, but the stem can be anything from pure white, to bright pink, yellow, or red. The keep their colour even when cooked, which is great.
They cook like any leafy vegetable, but it’s best to cook the thick stems for a bit longer than the more delicate leaves so you don’t overcook them. It’s considered to be one of the healthiest veggies around, with high amounts of vitamins A, K and C. It’s also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein.
They are probably one of the easiest veggies to grow – they can tolerate cold, damp, sun, and other than your typical snail, slug and caterpillar damage are pretty pest free as far as I have found, though some older leaves do seem to get powdery mildew (I just don’t eat those ones)
I usually buy a mixed packet of rainbow chard for a good selection of colours.
Sow between April and August.
I usually plant 2-3 seed per small pot, and thin to 1 when I can see a dominant one, unless there is a unbalance of the mixed colours.
I leave it on a warm windowsill until I can see the first set of true leaves, and then harden off and move outside to a bright location.
Keep the soil damp, but not soaking. Do not let dry out!
If planted early in the year you can start harvesting when the leaves are 10-15cm long, only taking off the outside few so the plant can keep growing. They can get stringy and tough when they get to big.
You should get at least 3 harvests per plant, if not more, and with a few plants you can have a pretty regular harvest for most of the year.
If you sow in August, get the plants established outside for the winter. they won’t grow much, but will start off with a bang in the spring, and can often be one of the first good harvests.
I usually put a fleece over mine for the winter, but have forgotten, and they seem to tolerate frosts and snow without issues.
You know that the plant is at the end of its life when it bolts (throws up a flower spike).
If you keep sowing on a frequent basis throughout the year you should have at least 9 months of Chard harvests.
They do not like temperatures over 30 degrees (in the UK this should not be a problem – it is in Canada!)
I have to thank Out of My shed for the most recent batch of seedlings I have – plant sharing is a great thing! Thanks Naomi!
Get some here!