Why Should I Grow That? The Case for Growing Swiss Chard

The health benefits of Kale can be found anywhere you look, but those benefits fall from memory as soon as it reaches your mouth.

Boil it, pan-fry it, add it to stir fries – it doesn’t matter – Kale doesn’t play nice with the rest of your recipe, instead stealing the stage like a Brillo pad in your soup.

Despite the taste and texture of Kale being abrasive at best, it’s still a trendy choice featured everywhere from smoothie joints to upscale boutique restaurants. The fad doesn’t seem to have an end in sight as common grocery stores are now lined with everything from Barbecue Kale Chips to Kale powder.

All the while, Swiss Chard remains sadly in the background, the tender, misunderstood sibling of spinach that is on par in health benefits and far more tasty than Kale.

Growing Swiss Chard makes sense, so it’s time to show the love for our favorite leafy green.

 

More on our Scoring System Below

Does Swiss Chard Fit the Formula?

Before we get into the argument for Swiss Chard, let’s clear up a little confusion – Swiss Chard is not originally from Switzerland, it’s from further south in the Mediterranean region, cited as far back as the fourth century B.C. by Greek philosopher Aristotle.

I can’t tell you why the name Swiss Chard stuck, but it sure makes it sound fancy. Glad we got that out of the way.

Our #WhyShouldlGrowThat debates always begin with our space planning formula for limited backyard garden space. You can find more details on our formula here, but suffice it to say it comes down to an analysis of three major points scaled from 1-5 with 5 being top notch:

  • How Much Space Does It Take Up?
  • How Cost-Effective is it to Grow vs. Buy?
  • Does Our Family Eat it and How Healthy is it?

Here’s how Swiss Chard fills out the formula…

growing swiss chard space planningSwiss Chard grows in a bunch, with multiple stalks and leaves branching out from each central seed placement. I’ve seen 15-20 stalks come off of one seed grouping which means it’s a very productive plant.

Even better, you can clip off a few of the outside stalks to make your meal, and the head of the plant will keep growing more throughout the year – these things power out edible product all growing season.

 

growing swiss chard cost effectiveSwiss Chard isn’t all that expensive to buy by the bunch in the grocery store, running about $2.50 for a group of 4-5 stalks, but there is a good reason for scoring a three instead of a one. Purchase Swiss Chard from the grocery store and you better use it all within three days, if not, it loses all textural qualities and goes embarrassingly limp. In your backyard garden you can select what you need, when you need it, to maximize quality.

While growing Swiss Chard instead of buying it may not seem like a money-saver, truth is the best vegetables are the ones you eat instead of throwing in the compost.

 

growing swiss chard healthySwiss Chard is one of those sneaky foods you can add to many meals without raising the ire of your family, often acting as a healthy participant rather than a main focus.

Our family has grown to really enjoy Swiss Chard from the garden, even though it may score points just because it’s not Kale. Doesn’t matter to me, if the young-ins eat it, I’m likely planting it.

As for health benefits, not many vegetables can compare. High in Vitamin K, A, C, magnesium and a plethora of healthy phytonutrients Swiss Chard is extremely high on the healthy scale.

 

testBased on our calculation, growing Swiss Chard makes a lot of sense and is a worthy occupant of your backyard garden.

Swiss Chard Grow Guide

TimingSeed DepthThinningOther Growing Notes
Swiss Chard has a soft green leaf that doesn’t hold up to cold and unlike Kale will be damaged by frost. Plant your seeds 1 to 2 weeks after the average last frost for your area. To grow Swiss Chard put 2-3 seeds in 1/2″ deep holes every 6-8 inches along a rowAfter initial growth gets to approximately 1/2″ tall thin them out to 1 plant every 6 to 8 inchesHarvest leaves from the outside as they mature and the center of the plant will keep growing!

 

Companion Plants for Swiss Chard

The Swiss people are known for their neutral participation in politics, but as we pointed out above Swiss Chard doesn’t actually hail from Switzerland. The leafy green will have some friends and enemies in your backyard garden so be mindful where you place it.

Buddy System

Swiss Chard plays really nice with Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage, Kale, Kohlrabi and Onions.

Green bush beans in particular help stimulate growth in the Chard, which will meet maturity faster, but as you’ll see below has the opposite effect when planted next to climbing beans.

growing swiss chard and cooking with it

Mushroom, Orzo and Swiss Chard Soup works for this family (Photo courtesy: CookingCanuck.com)

Keep Your Distance

Swiss Chard is a sworn enemy of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes Cucumbers and Melons while also having a negative effect on Climbing Beans, Corn and Potatoes.

Swiss Chard Recipes That Will Rock Your Senses

  • Swiss Chard and Leek Frittata – The combination of mild green Swiss Chard flavor and the creamy onion taste of leeks pairs incredibly well in this easy to make egg concoction.
  • Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta – The lentils give this meal a hearty, stew-like texture while feta helps brighten the entire dish.
  • Swiss Chard and Brown Rice Risotto – Another hearty meal, the Swiss Chard helps to lighten the density of risotto.
  • Hot and Sour Swiss Chard – Asian flavors always work well with Swiss Chard (and my families tastebuds) we make a few small adjustments to this one by removing some of the heat, but it’s a winner.
  • Mushroom, Orzo and Swiss Chard Soup – We’re a soup family and this tasty broth with a plethora of healthy vegetables always strikes a winning chord with us.

Final Thoughts

Kale grabs the headlines in the foodie world, but it’s Swiss Chard that should be occupying the space on your plate. Nutritious, mild tasting and a tender alternative to Kale, growing Swiss Chard is not only a nutritious and tasty endeavor, it’s also worthy of more hipster praise.

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The Case for Growing Swiss Chard
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The Case for Growing Swiss Chard
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Swiss Chard, the misunderstood sibling of spinach that's on par in health benefits and more tasty than Kale. Growing Swiss Chard makes sense, so it's time to show the love for our favorite leafy green.
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