Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

This post was published by error on October 24 (I clicked “Publish” instead of “Save Draft”). All my subscribers received an e-mail notifying them of the post, but when they visited my blog the post was not there because I “unpublished” it. I completed the draft and “re-published” the post this morning.

I just now realized it has October 24 as the published date. So here it is again, sorry for the confusion I am learning.

Swiss chard is a member of the beet family, but grown for its leaves and stems not for its roots like beet. Swiss chard is easy to grow, low maintenance and has a long productive life.  The same early planting will last from spring to late fall/early winter (can withstand frost and light freezes) so place your Swiss chard in a permanent location in the garden. You can purchase Swiss chard seeds for single-colored stems only or multi-colored stems. I go for the multi-colored.

Growing: Direct sow 2 – 3 weeks before last frost date. For earlier harvest, start seeds indoors. I usually start some seeds indoors mid March and direct sow mid to late April, ½” – 1″ deep, 2″ – 3″ apart. Like beets, Swiss chard seed may produce more than one plant and will require thinning. My very early thinning becomes micro greens, as the seedlings grow, the later thinning becomes salad green, or you can transplant the thinning. My final thinning is about 6″ – 8″ apart.

Harvesting: Swiss chard can be harvested at any stage. Harvest the outer leaves of each plant (instead of pulling up the entire plant). Cut each stem at the base (careful not to cut the stems of the inner leaves and please do not leave a stub), the inner leaves will continue to grow and ready for harvesting in a few days. Continue harvesting the outer leaves and the plant will continue to grow until the ground freezes. Do not allow old leaves to remain on the plant as this will decrease production.

My Swiss chard did not do well this year. The 2 photos above are from Dan’s (my son-in-law) garden and I am happy to see he is harvesting the leaves the proper way.

DSC01303weblarge copyCooking: Swiss chard makes a good substitute for spinach. Some people like to separate the leaves and stems. Using the leaves as a green (like spinach) and the stems like celery or cabbage. I combine both the leaves and stems. If you wish, cook the stems first for a few minutes then add the leaves.

If your Swiss chard stems are stringy, peel the stems using a paring knife, now it is stringless and very tender.

Below is a recipe, use it as a guide.


1 – 1½ pounds Swiss chard. Separate leaves from stems. Cut leaves into about  ½” wide strips, peel stems (optional) and slant cut into about ½” wide pieces.
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 shallots, minced
1 – 2 slices ginger, fresh or from ginger wine (see Ginger & Ginger Wine page)
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
½ teaspoon brown sugar or honey, optional
2 – 3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds or other nuts
1 – 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 – 2 tablespoons oil
2 – 3 tablespoons broth or water

1. Add oil to preheated wok or frying pan, swirl to coat cooking surface. Add garlic, shallots and ginger, saute until garlic is lightly browned.
2. Add salt and chard stems, saute 2 – 3 minutes. Stir in sugar or honey if using. Add chard leaves, saute until wilted and stems reached desired doneness, adding broth or water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to prevent burning. Stir in nuts and cranberries. Adjust taste. Serve hot or cold.

VARIATION 1: Add ½ – 1 tablespoon lemon zest and/or  1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice at the same time as the nuts and cranberries.
VARIATION 2: Garnish with crumbled crispy bacon.
VARIATION 3: Stir in some precooked (leftover) meat or poultry and pasta, now you have a complete meal.

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Copyright © 2011 by Norma Chang

About Norma Chang

I am the author/publisher of 2 user-friendly Chinese cookbooks: "My Students' Favorite Chinese Recipes (updated edition)" and "Wokking Your Way to Low Fat Cooking" A gardener who enjoys cooking and eating and loves to think outside the box A garden volunteer at Locust Grove Heritage Vegetable Garden Conduct hands-on cooking workshops for teenagers Conduct cultural programs for children and family Conduct healthy cooking classes for adults
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9 Responses to Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris)

  1. leduesorelle says:

    I never thought to peel chard stems in the same way as celery stalks — great tip!

  2. Sophie33 says:

    I am growing on my allotment 2 varieties! Red Swiss chard & Bright lights multi-clouted Swiss chard! I love them so much! x

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