Swiss chard is a fairly low-maintenance plant that grows best in zones 2-11. Plant swiss chard seeds 1 foot - 1.5 feet apart and 0.5 inch deep. When grown in rows, leave 18 inches between rows. Swiss chard can grow 1-2 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. It is suited to moist, light (sandy) and fertile soil, with a pH between 6.0-6.8, and needs to be in grown in full sunlight or partial shade. The plant prefers cool summer temperatures but is tolerant of heat and humidity. Swiss chard needs consistent moisture, and extra water during hot and dry summer periods.The plant can be self-sowing but you need to encourage it by hoeing the ground around it. Swiss Chard helps repel harmful insects and attract beneficial ones. (3) Companion plants include beans, cabbages, and onions.
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
The leaf stalks of Swiss chard are cooked like celery and tastes best when steamed. The leaves are similar to spinach and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is popular in folk medicine when it comes to treating cancer and tumors. The juice can be used to treat ulcers. Swiss chard leaves are very nutritious, being high in vitamin A and minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium (2).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Swiss chard is native to the Mediterranean region and gets its name because of its extensive cultivation in Switzerland from a Swiss cultavist. In South Africa, it has been used to treat haemorrhoids (1). The german variety of chard is called Mangold or Mangelwurzel which is used primarily for livestock. In Somerset, England, on the last Thursday of October children celebrate Punkie Night (Halloween) and use hollowed out mangelwurzels as "punkies" (jack-o-lanterns). Farmers would also put "punkies" on their gates to ward off evil spirites. (4)