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From plot to pot: Chard times

PUBLISHED: 11:03 22 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013

From plot to pot: Chard times

From plot to pot: Chard times

Brighten up dark winter days with colourful, delicious chard

Brighten up dark winter days with colourful, delicious chard




When it comes to a favourite vegetable grown during these colder months, chard is one I shout about from the rooftops. Grown for its extraordinary production, flavour and texture, few crops match it. The green leaves are notoriously rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also one of the most ornamental plants for your kitchen garden, with varieties bearing vibrant leaves and stems that I sometimes pick for an autumn vase. Also named Leaf beet, it is tastier and more tolerant of heat and dry spells than spinach, managing to resist that sudden bolting.
White stem varieties like Silver chard are the hardiest for winter, Rhubarb or Ruby bears crimson red ribs and Bright Lights is a psychedelic phenomenon of nature with red, yellow and pink stems.
Chard is undemanding but prefers well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter added, with seed sown direct from March to late summer in succession for cut-and-come-again pickings almost all year. A sunny spot is beneficial but partial shade will do, throwing on a cloche or fleecy polytunnel to protect against the winter snap.
Eating chard is fun. The forest green leaves can be torn away from the mid-rib, finely sliced and steamed for a minute. The remaining stem is a real treat and requires a little longer cooking time, softening with surprising sweetness.
Wilted stem and leaves can head off in a Moroccan direction drizzled with a yogurty tahini dressing or with garlic, raisins and pine nuts, cooked with potatoes and spices for an Indian twist, in souffls or tarts, added to hearty, Italian bean soups and minestrones or indulged with cream and parmesan. Converting my students to chard-growing is my aim, as they will always look forward to the Bright Lights ahead.


Belinda Gray runs a vegetable growing garden school. Contact her on
01394 384712 or
www.the-grower.co.uk

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