Growing Swiss Chard
Ever wanted to grow swiss chard leaves bigger than your head?!
No... just me?
Well, I'm sure you at least want lots of large and delicious leaves for salads, wraps, or this delicious swiss chard lasagna recipe, right?
Either way, it's possible to encourage your swiss chard plants to grow larger and larger leaves by harvesting the right way.
Reasons to Grow Your Own Swiss Chard Plant
Swiss chard is a superfood in the Amaranth family, which also includes beets and spinach. Not only is it so good for you, but it's also good to grow in the kitchen garden because it's prolific and will most likely last for two years (it's a biennial plant). The savoy texture on the leaves helps it withstand frost damage (the leaves actually tase better after a bit of frost), and it can even push through hot summers without bolting or turning bitter like many salad greens.
Give your swiss chard plant nutrient-rich soil to grow in, space for its roots to dig down deep, and consistent watering, and you'll be enjoying leaf after glossy leaf of swiss chard harvests.
When to Harvest Swiss Chard Leaves
You can start harvesting tender baby leaves from swiss chard plants about 4 weeks after planting them by seed directly into the garden. The outer sets of true leaves should be about 4 inches long before you begin harvesting. If you want larger, more mature leaves with a thick midrib, you'll only need to wait another 2 weeks or so.
The best time to harvest your swiss chard leaves is early in the morning. (That's actually the best time of day to harvest any type of leafy greens.) The first reason why is because the leaves will taste sweeter after pulling moisture from the soil and the air overnight. They'll also hold that moisture for longer. Have you ever harvested greens and then brought them inside, only for them to look sad and wilted like two seconds later? That happens when plants aren't harvested at the the optimal time and lose their moisture too fast.
Once your plants are established, harvest swiss chard leaves once a week.
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The Right Way to Harvest Swiss Chard
When harvesting, it's best to use a clean pair of pruners or garden scissors.
Grab a harvest basket or bowl so that you can get the greens indoors as fast as possible. You might even consider filling a bowl with some cold water so that you can keep the swiss chard stems nice and fresh until you bring them inside to store or cook (or my favorite, eat right away).
Swiss chard, like most greens, is going to grow from the heart of the plant. That means you should harvest the older, larger leaves around the exterior and closer to the base of the plant first. If you chop the entire top off the plant like a farmer does, you'll be getting a ton of greens at once, but you also might bring that swiss chard plant's life cycle to a close.
The kitchen garden way (versus the row garden method) is to avoid taking the whole plant all at once. So, never harvest more than a third of any one plant at a time, at least not if you'd like to be able to return next week and take more delicious leaves. Swiss chard is a cut-and-come-again plant, so as long as you keep the plant healthy and harvest a few leaves at a time regularly, you'll get leaves again and again and again.
If you take your pruners and cut some leaves around the edges of your swiss chard, right where the stem meets the main stalk of the plant, you'll be amazed at how many greens you can get from just a few plants.
Leave the younger leaves at the center of the plant to continue growing. They're your promise of many more harvests to come.
As you're harvesting from your plants, clear the debris from the soil and do a little check in to make sure your plants have everything they need to thrive. Remove any damaged or discolored leaves that will attract pests if they remain in your kitchen garden. You can either wash those leaves and eat them or throw them in your compost.
How to Store Swiss Chard Leaves
When you bring your leaves inside, put their stems in a bowl or jar of water to keep them nice and fresh as long as possible. Those stems and midribs, by the way, have a mild taste and a celery-like texture and are 100 percent edible, too. They're great tossed into garden-fresh salads for a nice crunch, sautéd, or roasted like asparagus.
You can enjoy your full-sized swiss chard leaves as a wrap (in the place of a tortilla), steamed, or lightly sautéd like spinach leaves and added to casseroles, pasta, stir fries, soups, and stews. I typically eat smaller leaves raw in salads and plan cooked meals for the bigger, more mature leaves. This swiss chard lasagna recipe is kid-approved and delicious.
That's all there is to harvesting and enjoying swiss chard. With frequent harvests, your plants will stay healthy and grow bigger and bigger leaves that are so fresh and so, so good for you. Here are even more tips to help you grow giant and organic swiss chard plants in your kitchen garden.
Thanks for bringing back the kitchen garden with me one swiss chard plant at a time!
Learn all you'll need to grow your own organic garden salad season after season through this 4-step course. Salad Garden School is available inside a Gardenary 365 membership, along with our complete online gardening course library. You'll also unlock access to Six Months of Salad Gardening, so you can plan out how you'll enjoy fresh leaves from the garden at least half of the year.