Chard is part of the beet family and is related to beetroot and spinach. Chard contains the good attributes of both. A taste of spinach, but with a lower tendency to bolt, and the hardiness of beetroot.
The vegetable is also highly nutritions containing vitamins A, B, C, and K, as well as antioxidants and many minerals including potassium and iron.
- April – August
- Planting depth: 1.5 cm
- Planting spacing: 30 cm between plants, 45 cm between rows
- All year round (protected overwinter)
- Eat fresh
Chard is sometimes referred to as Swiss chard, seakale, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, and rhubarb chard. The differences between all of these are very small, and this page will simply refer to all as ‘chard’.
It is possible to eat both the stalks and the leaves. The stalks take longer to cook, about 4 mins in boiling water, compared to 2 minutes for the leaves. Therefore the stalks and the leaves are often cooked separately. The stalks have a mild, crunchy flavour, with a texture and taste reminiscent of celery, whilst the leaves are more similar to spinach.
Chard can be sown throughout spring to late summer. Given its hardiness, chard is often sown towards the end of the growing season to replace crops like garlic and onion once these have been harvested. Later plantings of chard can be harvested from late summer into autumn, lasting well into October and beyond.
Chard seed looks very similar to beetroot seed, and can easily be confused! Like beetroot seed, it is very easy to sow, as the seeds can easily be picked up and planted individually.
Chard should be sown 2cm deep in trenches, already moistened, about 2cm deep. Sow about 5cm apart and then cover with soil. Watering the soil before sowing will prevent the seeds being washed out of the trench during watering.
Once the seedlings have germinated, thin the plants to about 30cm apart or even more. The plants can grow big throwing up their brightly covered leaves. By taking a few leaves from each plant it is possible to prolong the harvest across many weeks and months.
Chard bolts less easily then spinach, but still needs to be nurtured with care and not allowed to dry out, especially when the plants are young seedlings. Once mature, rain in late summer and autumn will soon see the plants flourish.
Chard adds dramatic colour to a vegetable patch. It comes in many different colours and is characterise by the dramatic stalks and veins of its leaves, including white, orange, and purple varieties.