In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
'Ruby' Swiss chard is a tasty delight spring, summer, and fall.
Eat Your Greens
Greens are simple things. In a world of chaotic schedules, hurried meals, and gourmet foods, it's pleasant to eat something as simple to prepare and wholesome as Swiss chard or kale. Besides, with the constant nattering about eating less fat and more vegetables, who can argue with getting a solid dose of cancer-fighting vitamins in something that tastes so good?
My Non-Greens Past
I wasn't always a greens aficionado. When I was a child in the South, the preferred method of cooking collards and turnip greens was to boil them until they turned gray and then flavor them with bacon drippings. The last thing I wanted to put in my mouth was a pile of what looked to a ten year old like slimy gray-green glop.
It took awhile to get past the specter of the sodden mass, but I've matured, at least according to rumor, and since I no longer have to eat greens, I've discovered how much I enjoy them. Sauteing or steaming them just until done makes a world of difference in how they look and taste.
Beautiful, Edible Greens
I'm a great fan of dual-purpose plants. My kale and Swiss chard plants are as beautiful as any perennial flower. This year I grew 'Laciniato' or dragon kale, which is a spectacular-looking plant with deep blue-green savoyed leaves. Coupled with 'Ruby' Swiss chard or the award-winning 'Bright Lights' Swiss chard, what more could you want from a flower garden?
Other than their great looks, another reason these basic, almost mundane vegetables appeal to me is that they're carefree to grow. You can sow seeds from early spring (sometimes right in the snow!) to fall, and the plants grow without much attention - except thinning early on (which you can eat) and then harvesting. I like that in a plant.
This past spring I sowed my kale seeds under lights. They went into the cold frame in late March and into the ground in mid-April. Right now in November we're harvesting the sweetest kale I've ever tasted, along with spring-sown Swiss chard and fall-sown Chinese cabbage, curled mustard, and mizuna. I think I'll go pick "a mess of greens" for lunch.
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