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Swiss Chard.

My Swiss Chard has been doing really well for most of the season after a poor start. I am hopeful that if the Winter isn’t too bad it will go on through much of the coming cold spell in full growth and I will be able to harvest it almost continuously.

For harvesting you simply cut, or cleanly and carefully, pull off individual Leaves that look a good size and are healthy. Sometimes you get Pigeon, or Slug damage and if they don’t get enough air round them the leaves can spoil and rot, so you do need to clean up plants from time to time. They are definitely a “Pick and Come Again,” type of plant though and as long as plants don’t go to seed they can be cropped for quite a long period of time. However, as Swiss Chard is not a Perennial, but only a Biennial, eventually plants will need replacing and as they grow in most weather they can be sown at various times of the year to ensure a continuous supply of fresh leaves. It is surprising just how many leaves you can get off a handful of plants so you don’t need to grow rows and rows of them. Just half a dozen plants with subsequent replacements will see most people through the year nicely. Plants need a bit of space as they get to about a couple of feet in height and are quite bushy. They are fairly tolerant of most conditions, but do prefer cooler, damper weather and have a tendency to go to seed if they are too dry.
Unfortunately, not many Garden Centres sell Swiss Chard plants, so unless you grow your own they are difficult to come by. However, seed is readily available from most places and easy to germinate. Although they are related to Beetroot, they are of course not a root vegetable and consequently are happy to be transplanted.
Lots of people grow Chard these days, but I still feel that it is an underrated vegetable that most people don’t really know what to do with in the kitchen.
Traditionally, English people have thrown away the stalks and eaten the green Leaves which they have cooked like Spinach, whilst French people have eaten the Stalks and thrown away the leaves. The Leaves are quite nutritious and a good “Green,” alternative vegetable, but the Stalks are supposed to be particularly health giving as they are high in Potassium which is good for your Heart and Blood pressure. So, when we run out of Bananas due to the disease that is ravaging crops around the World, we will all have to start eating more Swiss Chard!
I’ve found the best way to keep it in the Fridge after picking, is too separate the green leafy part from the stalk and bag it up separately. If you exclude most of the air from the bag, the leaves will keep for about a week before starting to deteriorate. The stalks are apt to go a bit brown at the cut edges like Parsnips and Apples, so I usually leave them more or less in tact when I bag them and then trim them into nice uniform strips about an inch or so wide immediately prior to cooking. Neither leaves nor stalks take long to cook and normally I steam them. The stalks are a little bland, but with some sauce on make a nice and unusual addition to your meals.
The Leaves can be used in any way that you would normally use Spinach, but one rather nice little recipe that I came across is as follows; -
The preparation uses 5 green leaves minus the stalks, serves 3 people and makes an unusual starter, or snack which I call, “Green Slime On Toast!”
First take the leaves and pre-cook them in a pan. Then simply “Blitz,” them in a food processor along with 2, or 3 thin slices of cooked, Supermarket Ham and a raw Egg. Next scoop the green mixture into an oven proof bowl and cook in a moderate oven for some 10-15 minutes until the mixture stiffens showing that the egg is cooked. Toast 3 Slices of Bread, butter them and then lay them out in a large oven proof dish. Spoon the green paste evenly over the Toast and place some slices of fresh Tomato on top of them. Then put the preparation back into the oven for a further 10-15 minutes, or so, until ready to serve hot. You could use it as an alternative Breakfast meal because you have the traditional “Ham, Eggs, Tomato and Toast,” along with some Greens!

 

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