BBC Good Food Magazine
VEG Q&A What time of year does it grow?
is a qualified horticulturist, trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and is the gardening editor for BBC Gardeners’ World. This month, she advises on growing chard.
When is chard ready?
Chard can be harvested as baby or mature leaves, so it’s ready to pick as soon as the leaves reach the size you prefer. Mature leaves will be ready nine weeks after sowing.
In the warmest areas of the country, you’ll be able to pick leaves all year round. Otherwise, you can harvest from early spring to late autumn outdoors, or pick baby leaves from a windowsill planter any time. Sow outdoors from April to August. Late sowings will generally overwinter to provide leaves for spring harvests.
Are there different varieties?
For the most productive crops, choose white-stemmed varieties, such as ‘Fordhook Giant’. Chards with coloured midribs look great in a vegetable plot, such as ‘Bright Lights’ (vivid yellow, orange, red and pink) or deep-red ‘Rhubarb Chard’.
How easy is it to grow your own?
This is one of the easiest crops to grow. It’s good-looking and doesn’t demand much. A common problem is ‘bolting’, or the plant producing a flowerhead. Although this can ruin many other leafy crops, it’s easy to cut back a chard flowerhead and continue to harvest leaves from it. Fungal leaf spots can disfigure old leaves, but these can be discarded.
What’s your favourite way to cook or eat chard?
Swiss chard is a fantastic stir-fry ingredient for taste, texture and colour. The midribs and stems are crunchier and cook more slowly than the green leaf blades, so you can either separate them to cook the midribs for longer or cook whole and enjoy the different textures.