Swiss chard; more and more this easy to grow vegetable is gaining a foothold in home gardens far and wide, and Passaic County, New Jersey is no exception. This leafy green cousin of the red beet can be planted as early as four weeks before the final frost date in spring, and can be ready for the pot in 60 days. Best of all, if the gardener is careful just to harvest the outer leaves, Swiss chard can produce all year long in a New Jersey garden, although the first hard frost of fall will kill the plants.
Chard is quite easy to grow. Seeds may be sowed directly in the ground and the young seedlings are vigorous and grow rapidly. The best way to prepare the soil is to dig deeply and mix in generous amounts of compost, sifted if possible. Fertilizer should not be necessary, chard is a light feeder.
Mulch when the soil heats up and water regularly, keep weeds suppressed and chard will almost grow itself. Insect predation is rarely a severe problem, but deer and bunnies can devastate a chard patch. A fence will keep both away.
Swiss chard may be eaten a number of ways, hot or cold and there are a myriad of recipes for this versatile leafy green. The stalks are delicious boiled or steamed; the tender leaves are an excellent salad foundation.
The leaves are also a rich storehouse of healthful compounds. The Worlds’ Healthiest Foods identifies 13 polyphenol antioxidants, 9 betacyanins and 19 betaxanthins. Vitamins and minerals abound. The benefits of these are maximized when chard is consumed raw, as in a salad.
Tasty, easy to grow, healthful and growing from June through October, Swiss chard is an ideal northern New Jersey crop!
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