Monday, March 2, 2009

Swiss Chard, or Silverbeet

Wikipedia has this to say about this plant:

Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), also known by the common names Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, Crab Beet, Seakale Beet and Mangold, is a leafy vegetable and a Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima. While the leaves are eaten, it is in the same species as the garden beet (beetroot), which is grown primarily for its edible roots.

The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by nineteenth century seed catalog publishers. The chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.

It is interesting to note the variations in what the same plant is called in different locations around the world. When visiting a gardening site in the UK they were writing about their problems growing Aubergines. I had to do a web search only to find out that they were referring to what I have always called eggplant. That just serves to demonstrate how provincial I am, I guess.

In any event, we love this vegetable, whatever you want to call it. We use the baby leaves in salads, and my wife prepares the large leaves and stalks boiled with tomatoes and garlic.

The seedlings in the photo are being grown under a compact fluorescent light in a system called Emily's Garden. It is a type of deep water culture that employs a wick to bring nutrients to the plants from the bottom of the container. It is simple and sturdy, and is a great system for a beginner. In fact, this is the first system I purchased when I started hydroponics, and I still use it occasionally. It is a nice system to place in a shaded corner of the greenhouse for lettuce or herbs. Maintenance on this system in minimal.

The seeds were started on 2/7/09 and the seedlings were placed in this system on 2/24/09. In just a few short days they have recovered from being transplanted and I can see increased growth. The TDS level I am using presently is 540 and the pH is 6.5. After two weeks at this level I will increase the TDS to about 1260 then gradually to a maximum of 1610. The pH will also be increased to 7.0, as I have found that this plant does better with a slightly higher pH.

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