Is it spinach, is it silver beet, or is it chard?

The plant:

This plant was grown from seeds which called it perpetual spinach, which is a type of silver beet and is also known as Chard or even Swiss Chard.   Spinach (as opposed to ‘perpetual spinach’ ) is a completely different plant and does taste different  as well as having a much more velvety texture when cooked.  Regardless though in recipes where the spinach is cooked you can often substitute silver beet/chard.

There are some fantastic Chard varieties – I love the rainbow ones in particular as they look fantastic in the garden (unfortunately I ran out of seed and this year and only planted green stemmed plants).  The main difference between varieties is their habit and to a lesser extent their taste.  Some have absolutely huge stalks and leaves (for example the  Fordhook Giant variety which many Australians would be familiar with – it has white stalks and large deep green leaves).  Other varieties, like the one in the picture above, are a bit more delicate and compact.   Some varieties are stronger flavoured than others – rainbow chard and perpetual spinach are at the milder end of the taste spectrum.

How I grow it:

I grow my Chard from seed, either sowing direct or into seed trays and then potting up into 7.5 cm pots before planting out.  Which of these options I take depends on how much room I have in the garden at the point I need to sow seed.

Seed can be sown in Melbourne for much of the year (although probably best to avoid May, June & July).  To date I have been able to get a reasonable supply for 9 of the 12 months of the year but despite the ‘perpetual spinach’ tag my plants always seem to bolt in mid to late spring no matter what stage of development they are in.   This year I plan to sow seed at 1 week intervals from the start of August to try and get some plants that don’t bolt.  If this fails seed sown anytime from September onwards seems to produce plants that last until the following Spring so at the very least you should have a crop for about 9 months.  Incidentally, you can still harvest leaves from plants that have bolted you just cut out the bolting section of the plant and the plant should produce masses of new leaves.  These leaves tend to be smaller though so you may need a fair few plants at this point to get a decent supply.

Anyway none of this is a problem now as its Autumn and I have Chard plants that are happily producing leaves.  I have plants both in the beds and in pots and so have a good number of leaves to use.  Unfortunately the kids will only eat Chard in very few forms: Spinach (or Chard) and Ricotta Cannelloni, Spanakopita (this is only at a push….or more accurately with dessert used as a bribe) and this – their preferred form: Chicken & Spinach Curry.

What I use it for:

Chicken & Spinach* Curry

*I almost always actually use chard as I have it for a greater portion of the year and I cook this dish a lot.

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm ginger finely grated
  • 4 garlic cloves finely grated
  • 2 tomatoes – finely chopped
  • 2 large chicken breasts (or similar quantity thigh fillets, or meat on the bone if you prefer) – chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • ½ tspn chilli powder or 2 hot red chillies finely chopped.   (All my curry recipes are fairly low in chilli.  This is due to cooking for a young family who are being slowly introduced to the joys of spice.  Please double the amount (at least) if you like your food hot.)
  • 2 tspns ground cumin
  • 2 tspns ground coriander
  • 5 tbspns canola (or similar neutral flavoured) oil
  • 6 tbspns greek or natural yoghurt.
  • One small bunch of spinach or chard.
  • ½ to 1 tspn Salt (according to taste – I am used to cooking for kids and thus tend to under season at times)

Cook chard/spinach (I steam mine) then puree it.

Heat oil, once heated add cinnamon and cardamom, cook for about a minute or two and then add onion.  Fry onion until lightly golden brown.  Add ginger and garlic.  Fry over a low to medium until they are cooked and the onion is a deep golden brown.   Add cumin, coriander and chilli.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes collapse and the oil starts to separate.  Add chicken and stir once then add the yoghurt one tablespoon at a time stir thoroughly in between to ensure the yoghurt is well integrated into the sauce.  Once all the yoghurt has been added stir through the cooked and pureed spinach.   Season with salt.   Cook for a further 5 minutes and ensure the chicken is completely cooked.  Serve with rice

This entry was posted in Autumn Harvesting, Autumn Planting, Greens - Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Recipes, Spring Harvesting, Spring Planting, Summer Harvesting, Summer Planting, Winter Harvesting, Winter Planting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Is it spinach, is it silver beet, or is it chard?

  1. Susie says:

    Chard is distinguished by the different colours of its stalks – they can be white, yellow or beetroot colour. It is the best, easiest to grow vegie ever. If you chop it off, it will keep growing back so a punnet of seedlings can feed your family for years. My favourite recipe: Fry an onion and some finely chopped chard till soft. Add some stock, bring to boil and throw in a can of cannelini beans. To serve: Rub some country style toast with garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Pour over soup and top with parmesan. Bellisimo!!

    • Liz says:

      I like it!!! I sense a challenge. As I mentioned I have always had problems with my chard/silver beet bolting in spring and then becoming unproductive, but maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough. I think to make the plants last 18 months to 2 years (its biennial so anything longer is unlikely) you would essentially have to cut off the flowering stalk the moment it appeared to try to send it back into leaf production. Or alternatively try and prevent it going to seed in the first place. I will experiment with location in the garden on that one as it may be that a well lit but shady area may work in that regard. Glad you have had so much success with it, I find it fascinating how different plants respond differently in different gardens – a friend of mine who lives a block away and is a very keen gardener can’t seem to grow it at all. Thanks for the recipe – sounds really nice! I’ll try it this weekend.

  2. L says:

    That looks like a fantastic recipe Liz! I struggle to get my tribe to eat silverbeet too, but boy do they like a good (mild) curry!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Liz says:

      My oldest (who is almost 5) used to say no silverbeet in this curry and I would dutifully take her portion out before I added the silver beet until one day she started whinging about hers not being green like everyone else’s – since then she has eaten it with the silver beet in. It never ceases to amaze me how much kids tastes seem to vary from day to day let alone week to week and so on…..

  3. Hilary Johnston says:

    With regards to spinach or silverbeet bolting – my mum told me never to plant it or have it in the ground before the shortest day (June 21) as it will always bolt. I always make sure I plant it from July and it’s generally fine
    cheers, Hils

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