This is a picture of my strawberry/swiss chard bed on Oct. 11th. The strawberries are in the middle, and the chard is in a row at either end. Right behind the fountain is a row of Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, and in the back, a row of Five Color Silverbeet Rainbow Swiss Chard. Last year I grew the Rainbow, but it grew quite slowly and never got that big, although I did get a few harvests and it was tasty (plus pretty). So this year I decided to try the Fordhook Giant, which was recommended for my area by the local Master Gardener program.
Well, it surely lived up to its name!! I couldn't believe the gianormous leaves I harvested from those plants. To the left is a close up with my hand on a leaf for size comparison.
I've gotten at least 3 or 4 nice size harvests off the plants so far, and there is plenty left. They're also biannual, so I'll probably be able to harvest them again next year.
I still have a few plants alive of the Rainbow from last year in another spot in the garden (now under the row covers). Unfortunately, they did get attacked a bit by leaf miners, pretty much chard's only pest. It is amazing how the critters manage to zoom in on their favorite plants so quickly, when just last year my yard was only weeds! At least so far, the leaf miners haven't touched the chard in the strawberry bed.
At first I was a bit worried that the chard would be bitter with the huge size of the leaves and dark green color, but to my pleasant surprise they were amazingly tender and delicious! You can see the last harvest I picked to the right, on the same day I cooked the Italian Brunch described in the last post. Most of it is the Fordhook, with just a bit of the Rainbow that's reddish-purple. It did also grow in yellow, white, and orange-y colors.
I often use chard in cooking in place of spinach. Personally, I like it even better - it tastes mild and delicious to me. I'll put it in tomato sauces, veggie sautes or even lasagna.
Most often though, I just saute some minced garlic in a bit of olive oil, (and sometimes red pepper flakes) then throw the roughly chopped chard in until it just wilts. Then I squeeze on a generous amount of fresh lemon juice, and maybe a bit of salt and cracked pepper. Simple yet outstanding as a side dish. That's how we ate it that day at brunch. Here's a picture: