Thursday, August 26, 2010
Personally, I am a big fan of spinach. I could eat a few pounds of it a week. As a gardener, though, it is kind of a pain. I can get it to grow all winter long. I can get it to grow in the fall and I can make an abundance in the spring. But it just won’t grow in the summer. At the first sign of heat, it goes straight to seed and dies. So for my greens, I have another favorite, Swiss chard. Flavor-wise, it is very similar to spinach, though I find it to be a little tastier. Texture-wise, it is a little tougher. Raw leaves are not as palatable as spinach unless they are picked very young, though I still enjoy them on burgers and tacos. They just don’t make a very good salad. Make no doubt, though, Swiss chard packs the same nutritional punch as spinach.
The best part, though, is that chard is a biennial, meaning that it grows one year, storing energy all summer, and then goes to seed the next year. You just have to let one plant go to seed and you will have enough seeds to keep you and your friends stocked in Swiss chard seeds for years to come. It is also very cold tolerant. In my area (Zone 7 in Arizona), I can sometimes coax it to stay active all winter long. It is also a big plant, with leaves on mature plants sometimes reaching a foot long. Leaves can be harvested individually and the plant will keep putting up more. I also like growing it myself because a bunch at the grocery store often sells for $3 or so, which seems quite high considering how easy it is to grow. If you pick the right cultivar, like ‘Rhubarb’ or ‘Bright Lights,’ you can even plant them in the landscape beds for a bit of edible landscaping.
No that it is late August, it is time to consider what to plant for the fall garden. Might I suggest a little Swiss chard?