Rainbow chard is exactly the same as silverbeet except its stems are red, yellow, pink and purple; all the colours of the rainbow. Some people mass plant it in their garden beds with their flowers and shrubs because the stems are so beautiful and the leaves are a deep, glossy green.
Just like silverbeet, rainbow chard is easy to grow and is a vegetable that keeps on giving because you only cut the leaves that you need, when you need them. The rest can keep on growing for many months.
Prepare the garden bed by removing the weeds and then digging through plenty of compost. Water the soil and then use a dibbler or large stick to make small holes about 30cm apart. Place one seedling in each one and gently push the soil around the roots. Water lightly.
Rainbow chard looks fantastic mass planted in large containers that are at least 30cm deep. Fill the pots with premium potting mix, plant the seedlings and water them lightly. Make sure that the pots get at least 6 hours of daylight and don’t let the potting mix dry out.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Water the seedlings regularly so that the soil doesn’t dry out and apply liquid fertiliser every two weeks. Mulch between the rows to prevent weeds from growing and keep an eye out for snails which can make holes in the leaves. If you start to see holes, get a torch and go out at night as this is when you are most likely to catch the snails.
Old or damaged leaves should be removed and given to the chooks or thrown in the compost.
The leaves of rainbow chard can be harvested as soon as they are big enough. Take the outside leaves first as the new ones grow from the centre. Pick them by pulling each stem downwards and breaking it off at the base. Always leave some smaller leaves to keep growing so that more chard can be harvested for several months.
HOW TO EAT
Both the stem and the leaves of rainbow chard can be eaten but they should be washed really well first. The stems need to be cooked longer than the leaves so it is best to cut these up into slices and put these in to start cooking two or three minutes before the green leaves are added.
Rainbow chard can be microwaved, steamed or boiled and is delicious served simply with a little bit of butter and salt and pepper. It can also be used in any recipe that uses silverbeet such as pies and vegetable lasagna. Find more great recipes in the Smarty Plants Kitchen.
HOW THEY GROW
Rainbow chard is a leafy plant that grows on long stems in a bunch. The younger leaves are more tender and as the plant ages, the leaves become tougher.
Botanical Name: Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: All year round
Height/Width: 40cm x 30cm.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water every day unless it rains. Liquid fertilise fortnightly. Keep a look out for snails.
Nutritional Benefits: Being a leafy green, rainbow chard is rich in minerals as well as dietary fibre and vitamins. Some nutritionalists believe it helps us live longer.