Swiss Chard

Health Power

Chard is off the high end of the chart with its vitamin and mineral content. One cup gives 700 percent of the RDA of vitamin K, more than 100 percent of vitamin A and 50 percent of vitamin C. It is also an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, iron, fiber and more. The health potential of chard seems endless. The vitamin K, magnesium and calcium in chard give a great boost for more bone building and less bone loss. Vitamin A supports healthy vision, immune system function, lung health and protects thin membrane layers around organs and blood vessels. Minerals in chard can also help keep normal blood pressure while vitamins A, C and E do the same by preventing the build up of plaque and the blockage of blood flow in arteries. Magnesium and potassium are the main minerals that help with blood pressure and heart function by supporting muscle and nerve function. Iron is needed to deliver oxygen to tissues all over the body. Eating chard regularly also has the potential to lower high levels of cholesterol and blood sugar, mainly from its fiber content. Chard also helps the body activate crucial antioxidant molecules from the liver to help get rid of potentially dangerous metabolic wastes. Studies also suggest regular eating of vegetables like chard can slow down age-related cognitive decline. The long list of benefits shows chard is a flat out supporter of overall health.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Vitamins – K, A, C, E, B2 (Riboflavin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B1 (Thiamin), B9 (Folate), B3 (Niacin) and B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Minerals – Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Iron, Copper, Calcium, Phosphorus and Zinc

Disease Prevention

Regularly eating chard may reduce the symptoms or the onset of osteoporosis, asthma, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, anemia, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung cancer, colon cancer and potentially many other cancers due to its antioxidants and detoxifiers, vitamins and minerals.

How to Grow

Relatively easy to grow, Swiss chard is loaded with nutrition and seen as a delicacy in some parts of the world. You can grow two distinctly colored varieties: red and white stemmed. Although red stem is more attractive, it has no better flavor than the other. Chard needs highly fertile soil that retains moisture yet drains well. Work some organic matter into the site, like compost or planting mix, to create a nice loamy soil. The pH must be above 6.5; add lime if needed. Plant chard in mid-spring. In warmer climates, a late summer or early fall sowing works, too. Sow seeds in groups of 3 in shallow drills spacing each cluster out by 1 foot and each row by roughly 1.5 feet. Later thin out to leave the strongest seedling per cluster. Once the seedlings emerge, keep the soil moist and the bed weed free. Harvesting can begin in mid-summer. Pull, do not cut, leaves off the plant. (Cutting makes them bleed.) It is a “cut and come again” plant. Harvest from around the outside of the plant as you need and they grow right back. They are cold hardy enough to handle light frosts, so you can harvest into the fall/winter.

Insect Control

Slugs, caterpillars, cucumber beetles and mealy cabbage aphids may try snacking on chard. Slugs can be controlled by embedding a wide cup of beer in the soil. Slugs are attracted to it, slide in and drown. You can also remove by hand and destroy mornings and evenings. Remove caterpillars by hand, too. Watch for their eggs on the leaves and wipe them off. If infestation is uncontrollable, spray with Bt. Cucumber beetles can be removed by hand, too, but if they are too resilient, spray with rotenone. Cabbage aphids cluster on the underside of leaves. Control them by companion planting French marigolds or another smaller flowering plant. They will attract hoverflies and ladybugs that consume aphids by the score.

Tips

Chard germinates easily. You might enjoy starting from scratch by sowing seeds directly into an outdoor planting bed. This also gives you more choice among varieties. Sow seeds in early spring, and find a recipe that works for you.

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