A relative of beetroot, silverbeet or chard (Beta vulgaris) is a staple in any winter garden; high food value and easy to grow. Generally chard is known as having colored stems, but the names are interchangeable. A biennial, it can be planted year round except for the coldest months and picked year round. Plants like a sunny or lightly shaded position, well drained and well fed with compost before planting and during growing.
Autumn – Sow or plant another crop to ensure ongoing supply of young plants, 30- 60cm apart. Weed and feed.
Winter – Keep harvesting, feeding and weeding.
Spring – Sow or plant another crop to ensure ongoing supply of young plants. Weed and feed every few weeks, mulch well over spring and summer.
Summer – Sow or plant another crop in early or late summer to ensure ongoing supply of young plants. weed and feed. Kepp up the watering over summer for the leaves to keep producing. Cut off flower stems as they are produced unless you want to save seed (and beware of other plants in the same family that may cross pollinate) as they will limit foliage growth.
Generally – Chard can be picked very young and eaten raw in salads or left to grow and mature. Ideally you should stagger plantings to have year round supply, so plant in spring, summer and early autumn. Harvest the outer leaves first, cutting at the stem base and leave 3 or 4 leaves to keep photosynthesising and producing. Pick leaves regularly – this is important, even if you are unable to use them. It’s said that broad beans and bush beans, broccoli and the brassicas, onions and lettuce grow well nearby. Many herbs are also good companions.
Eating – Stephanie Alexander suggests many ways with silverbeet including chips made from the stems, a stem gratin and other flans and pies. Lightly steamed with a hint of nutmeg or raw and finely shredded.