Lights Swiss chard is like a beet without a
seems wherever I go Iím seeing Swiss chard. This showy
cool season plant sometimes called a beet without a
bottom is showing up in the landscape, in mixed
containers and there it is available in the local
grocery store. Is it an ornamental or an edible you
might ask and the answer is, both. Then you might wonder
do you eat it fresh or do you cook it and again the
answer would be both.
has been almost 20 years since the All American
Selections Bright Lights showed up on the scene. There
was nothing to not love about this plant that had
multicolored-stems that were so ornamental looking yet
provided that glorious glossy foliage that became a
substitute for fresh spinach. Swiss chard is known
botanically as Beta vulgaris ssp. vulgaris showing it is
indeed a leafy beet.
holy cow now you look at a catalog and youíll see
Bright Lights there but also single colors like Oriole,
El Dorado, Magenta Sunset, Ruby Red and the bi-colored
Peppermint. They can also be found at your grocer. You
will probably have 3 to 4 varieties to choose from for
your culinary artistry in the kitchen.
chard is ready to harvest baby green within 30 days or a
mature harvest in 60. Cut or break off the outer leaves
when they are 12 to 18 inches tall. You may cut them
when they are smaller and more tender. Like many plants,
it seems production is lengthened by harvesting. The
stalks can be cooked like asparagus. Cut the stems into
2- or 3-inch lengths and simmer in boiling salted water
until tender. The leaves can be cooked or eaten fresh in
tossed salads. Or you may simply want the texture and
color in the landscape or designer styled container.
can use it as a fall crop or spring crop. Actually with
its heat tolerance it has become a year-round crop in
some areas just growing in succession type plantings.
Space plants about 6-inches apart. Obviously, in the
garden, this would usually mean rows 18 to 30 inches
apart. But I think the flowerbed is the real location of
choice. Here you would still use the same 6-inch spacing
but this time plant in large informal drifts where you
might plant a couple of flats.
good way to use Bright Lights or your favorite variety
in the landscape would be as a pocket planting of 7 to 9
clustered behind pansies or use as three in the center
of a large mixed container. Feed with a dilute
water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks during
the growing season. Here is hoping you have a little
Swiss chard for your holiday dinners, but when the
garden centers open back up and start bringing in fresh
transplants, give them a try in your garden.