Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


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Cornell University

Swiss Chard
Beta vulgaris
(bay-tah vul-gar-is)

Swiss chard  Swiss chard Swiss chard

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Swiss chard

What about it?

Swiss chard is in the Goosefoot family, along with spinach. It is also closely related to beets and the common garden "weed" lambsquarter. Swiss chard comes in red and white varieties and grows from the spring to the fall. The white variety is rumored to be more tender while the red one adds a spot of color to a plate of greens. 'Ruby is a popular red-staIked variety.

What is it used for?

The leaf blade and the leaf stalk are edible. The leafy portion can be cooked like spinach or eaten fresh. The stalks and midribs can be steamed like asparagus. The outer leaves are picked periodically as the plant grows.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Chard is relatively heat tolerant, at least more so than spinach. Many gardeners opt to plant spinach early and follow it with chard to provide a steady supply of tasty greens all summer. Chard can be planted in early spring, 2-3 weeks before the last spring frost date and again in the late summer, 40 days or so before the first fall frost. Sow the seeds 1 /2 inch deep, 18-24 inches apart, in rows 15 inches apart.

When the plants reach 4 inches they will need to be thinned. Give each plant several inches of growing room. Water regularly, and mulch to conserve that moisture. You may need to cut back the plant to continue to get small and tender leaves throughout the season.

What are its primary problems?

Chard might be bothered by spinach leaf miners or slugs.

How do we harvest and store it?

Harvest the outer leaves or the entire plant at 1 1/2 inches above the ground. Leaves should be 6-8 inches tall. New growth will sprout in a week or so. Store at 32 degrees and high humidity. Swiss chard tends to wilt quickly in the field so get it to water as soon as possible.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.