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Swiss Chard: What Is It and What Do You Do With It?

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Grow Swiss chard in containers.
The Swiss chard in this wooden box used to be surrounded by lettuce, too. The lettuce has long since bolted and been removed. Swiss chard sticks around for summer’s heat like no other leafy green.

By Kelly Smith Trimble

Yesterday, on Father’s Day, my dad sent this picture in an email titled, “What is this and what do I do with it?” Since the plant in that box is one of my favorite things to grow, I was happy to give him some advice after all the advice he’s given me over the years! I’ll share with you what I told him…

That is Swiss chard, and it’s awesome! Swiss chard is related to beets and spinach, and I think it tastes somewhere in between. The variety we sell is called Bright Lights Swiss chard, and it’s beautiful as well as flavorful—it seriously looks like a rainbow in the garden. Nowhere else in my vegetable garden do I see colors as vivid as hot pink and neon orange (except for in the flowers like coneflower and marigolds that I grow to attract bees).

Swiss chard has beautiful stems and leaves.
Bright Lights Swiss chard has gorgeous multi-colored stems.

Growing Swiss chard is actually very easy. It looks fantastic in containers or in a raised bed. You can plant it in early spring and it will stay lush long after all the other greens have bolted, because chard tolerates both cold and heat, though I do think the colors fade a bit in the warmer weather. (I can tell from dad’s picture that this has happened with his plants.)

So what do you do with it? On our website, we have a basic recipe for Sautéed Swiss Chard with garlic and olive oil—super simple, which is really the best way to enjoy chard. You could eat this alone as a side or serve it over polenta or grits. I also love to put sautéed chard in a frittata along with Parmesan, Swiss, or extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Some recipes say to cut off and discard the stems, but why not use them? Chop them up and sauté them alone for a minute or two before you add the leaves to the pan.

Let me know how you like it!

P.S. My father-in-law made those wooden boxes, I planted them for our wedding earlier this spring, and we gave them away to friends and family after the celebration. The plant mix also included lettuces, but those have long since bolted and been removed. Swiss chard can really take the heat better than any other green!