The Dark Horse

Hands down, my swiss chard was absolutely the easiest, most resilient and most productive plant in my garden so far this year.  Here we have the Rhubarb variety:

And the more subtle, traditional version:

What’s wonderful about swiss chard is that it excels at resisting the urge to bolt in the summer heat-in fact not a single one of mine has gone to flower, which is more than I can say for my lettuce, spinach, kale and even broccoli!  Though not as flashy as its red cousin, white stemmed chard does this even better than the colourful varieties and all of them shine at surviving light frost.

And despite our cool and rainy early summer, we managed to escape any Cercospora leaf spot (a fungal disease that causes light brown patches surrounded by purple halos that can form on leaves of chard, beets and sometimes spinach).  Keeping plants properly spaced to promote good air circulation and promptly removing any diseased leaves apparently is key.

To harvest, I cut individual outer leaves with a sharp knife and compost any old leaves that have lost their glossy sheen. Three to five leaves can be picked from mature plants at a time, and leaving the growing crown intact and picking frequently seems to help produce new leaves.

Now I’ve been sneaking new leaves into salads, but older, bigger leaves do best when sautéed or added to soups and stews as any bitterness quickly fades.  Or you could kick it old school and eat it straight out of the garden like my kids-they grab leaves as long as their arms and eat it like it’s cotton candy, complete with red streaks running down their faces!

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