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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Emergency Preparedness -- Garden : Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is one of the best vegetables you can plant for emergency preparedness. Once started from seed, it is tolerant to a variety of weather conditions with a bit of help from you. Swiss chard plants can produce for two years from your first seeding. Best results come from direct seeding in your garden, then thinning and replanting the seedlings you carefully lifted out. It can be started inside; be aware it needs much light to keep it from growing spindly. Grow it in large pots or containers if you don't have garden space.

Keep your chard production uninterrupted by seeding more in the spring of your first crop's second year. When it goes to seed, the second crop will be producing. Plant every year.

It doesn't take much room. The upright, bushy habit of growth makes it good for interplanting with shorter season plants such as lettuce. Once the lettuce is gone, the chard spreads out to take over the empty spaces.

Here in Texas, chard will grow year round, even through our blistering summers. Adequate water is key, and light shading during the worst of the afternoon heat helps keep leaves succulent. Plant them to the east of taller, bushy plants, or use row cover. Pick younger leaves in the morning for the best salad greens.

Winter temperatures below 32 degrees require sturdier covering. We use old sheets which allow some passage of light. Our chard has been covered for up to a week at a time with no problems. When the weather warms, uncover it. Toss the sheet back on it when it turns cold. In snow prone areas grow it in a cold frame or mini-greenhouse. Pick chard for greens, or to include in recipes, in the afternoon when the leaves have less moisture.

Swiss chard contains vitamins K and E, folic acid and niacin, calcium, beta-carotene, and as much vitamin C as an orange. Chlorophyll content helps with wound healing, ulcers and inflammation.

The mild taste combines well with a number of foods or with sauces. Add it when preparing soups or casseroles stored in your pantry to boost  nutrition.

It's in high demand from our veggie customers, and we sell out every time we bring it to town. We feed it to our small farm animals, too, helping cut the feed bills to save more $$$. It improves egg quality in winter months.

Not recipes for shelf storage, but yummy none-the-less:

Swiss Chard with Hot Bacon Dressing
Everythings better with bacon, right?Remove ribs and tear leaves of approx. 1 gallon container full of chard
Dice 4 slices of bacon; fry until crisp.
Drain off all but 1 TBS. bacon fat
1 TBS vinegar
2 TBS water
salt, pepper and sugar to taste
stir in torn chard leaves, continue stirring until leaves are covered with dressing and slightly wilted. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Meatballs with Chard and Cheese

Use your favorite meatball recipe using 1 pound of meat (beef, venison, turkey, pork, etc.)

Remove ribs from 1 1/2 c raw chard
Use scissors to snip chard into small strips -- 1/2" x 3/4"
Place chard into  heatproof bowl, pour 3/4 c simmering water over chard and cover for 2 minutes.
Drain chard (freeze water for soup later), squeeze out gently
Mix into meatball mixture with 1/2 to 3/4 c. cheddar or parmesan cheese. Cook as usual.

The chard is very mild, nigh unto tastless, if you're hesitant to try it. It makes the meatballs "prettier" and more nutritious.
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  I have a thing about chard ribs. I read they could be stuffed and substituted for celery ribs. I don't think so!!! GACK! Ptooi! I removed the stuffing and fed the stems to the chickens.

I've also read the stems can be cooked and served buttered like asparagus. When I work up the courage, I'll let you know how that goes.

Next Blog: Back to "Your Pantry, Page 3"


  1. Chard is one of those things I never thought I would eat, let alone grow. I actually like it.

  2. I honestly had no idea that it was that easy to grow and that good for you. We are going to use buckets this year for our garden and I am definitely going to try some chard.