Swiss Chard-Argentata, Ruby and Bright Lights

chard_argentata

Argentata Chard is not only delicious but cold hardy too.

This past year I grew several varieties of chard—Ruby, Bright Lights and Argentata (shown above).

ruby chard with flowers

Ruby chard has the most brilliant red veins-grown with flowers it is stunning

For looks in the garden I would pick Ruby chard and Bright Lights (whose stalks come in lovely shades of red, pink, salmon and yellow) and grow them around my flowers inside my vegetable garden because they are soo beautiful (Ruby chard-above last year).

chard_chopped

Argentata chard loosely cut and ready to steam

But to eat and for flavor I would pick Argentata chard hands down. This heirloom chard, also known as Bionda da Costa, is revered by Italian cooks and for good reason. Argentata produces large, deep green leaves with juicy white stalks. The stalks are never stringy or tough like some other chards but soft and tender when steamed. I eat both the leaves and stems. Chard reminds me of steamed spinach only better.

chard_cooked

Here is the steamed Argentata chard with a little balsamic salad dressing on it with my french fingerling potatoes I grew and salmon (which I did not grow!)

And a bonus of Argentata is that it is one of the most cold hardy varieties. It won’t make it through the whole winter here in Santa Fe but will survive longer in the fall than the others with our cold winters. I got my seeds from John Scheppers Kitchen Garden Seeds.

:) We can plant chard seeds inside right now in March and early April and transplant them to the garden in late-April or plants seeds then too but not now as it is still too cold at night.

New vegetables I will try in 2012

I’m starting to make my list of what to grow 2012. Every year I refine my vegetable list to exclude ones that didn’t work out or I didn’t like and try some new ones. I’m keeping many of my varieties that I normally have but here are some new things I want to try: tomatillos, Atomic red carrots,  Di Firenze fennel, Argentata chard, Jerusalem artichokes, and a really ugly french beet called ‘Rouge Crapaudine’ that is supposed to be divinely sweet (the seeds come from France).  Some new tomatoes I want to try are: Southern Nights, Carbon, Woodle Orange, Flamme, Lollipop and Cour Di Bue. Oh yea, I want some small fingerling potatoes (I’m not sure of which type). I’m still looking for a good catalog for great potatoes-not just your ordinary potatoes. Anyone know of one?

Chard choices

Bright lights/photo courtesy of cooksgarden.com

Now is the time to plant Chard or (Swiss chard or Silverbeet as it is called).  There are many types of chard and I would like to go over a few of them and my experience with them. Chard is a close relative of the beet and should be planted in the ground at the same time as beets which is now. It will sprout early and will not be harmed by spring frosts. Harvest the outer leaves first (usually in 4-6 weeks) and leave the center intact and it will keep growing and supply you with more throughout the summer season. It usually doesn’t flower until it’s second year-it is a biennial. For that reason, I replant it every year as it will put more effort into flowering in it’s second year and you won’t get as many big leaves. One planting will last the entire season and it will not ‘bolt’ in the heat of summer. I pull it up after the season as I rather it put all it’s energy into those big leaves. A great substitute for spinach which will be gone after spring.

Fordhook chard/photo courtesy of seedsavers.org

-The best chard I find to plant for fall/winter is Argentata which is very cold hardy even in our winter temperatures. It can withstand colder temperatures more than many other types of chard. You can get it at John Schweepers or Gourmetseed. It is a white variety with big juicy thick stems. Both the stems and leaves are delicious.

-Another great white variety is ‘Fordhook’ which is similar to Argentata and can be found at seedsaversexchange along with Rhubarb Red. You can plant this in the spring and enjoy it this summer.

I like 5-Color Silverbeet, and Bright Lights, for the multi-color varieties. The stems are not as thick and juicy as the white varieties but the color is to die for and I always plant some among the flowers to add additional color to the garden and they are good to eat as well.

Red Charlotte chard/photo courtesy of cooksgarden.com

I also like other red varieties in addition to Rhubarb Red mentioned above-Magic Red and Red Charlotte can be found at Cook’s Gardens

Try growing all these together and enjoy each one through the summer season!

I like to eat these chopped coarsely and steamed with a balsamic vinaigrette over them as a vegetable or sauteed in olive oil and put on pasta with butter along with some chicken and Parmesan cheese. Delicious!