All the colours of the rainbow – Silver Beet

I’m in a quandary about Silver Beet, or Chard as it is often called.  I love it, I find it really versatile to cook with – I use it both for its own sake and as a substitute for spinach.  It’s a really forgiving plant to grow: happy in sun but not adverse to shade.  It seems to require little in the way of extra attention beyond fairly regular watering.  Despite the odd caterpillar hole it is reasonably pest resistant and if succession planted to get through the tendency to bolt in Spring it can provide harvests all year round in Melbourne.   The quandary is not whether to grow it, rather which variety should I grow?   If I was to consider the matter on a purely rational basis then I would always grow the green stemmed varieties.  I grow both a variety called perpetual spinach and another Italian one the name of which I unfortunately tore off the seed packets a couple of years ago and now it is lost forever.  I find the green stemmed ones are the easiest to grow, they cope best with shade, are always productive and avoid the mildew I find the others can succumb to.  But then I get seduced by colour of the rainbow varieties.  Beautiful aren’t they?


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27 Responses to All the colours of the rainbow – Silver Beet

  1. You’re not going to believe this but I don’t really like the taste of chard so we don’t grow it. I’d go for the coloured stems though. When we did grow chard we used the young leaves in salads which was fine – the rest of the plant tasted too ‘earthy’ for our taste – sorry!

    • Liz says:

      Ah don’t apologise – the more I think about it the more convinced I am that a lot of our tastes – particularly in vegetables are formed as children, so with that in mind I blame the parents…better convince my kids they love chard quickly though….

  2. Hi Liz, I’m with you in that I adore chard either steamed or stir-fried. I generally find the green varieties taste a little nicer but love the colour of the Ruby chard. Unfortunately my over wintered Ruby chard is not looking so good now whereas the easy grow green chard has coped better with the cold weather. I’m hoping with a bit of sunshine and the warmer weather they will perk up a bit. I’m sowing more seeds this weekend indoors of both plus Gold Chard, Bright Lights Chard and Perpetual Spinach. I do find powdery mildew a problem though…

    • Liz says:

      I’ve never had powdery mildew on perpetual spinach – well not yet anyway… but I definitely get it on the coloured varieties. Like you I do think I prefer the green stemmed varieties to eat as well. I can feel a taste test coming on though.

  3. Mark Willis says:

    I like it (we call it Swiss Chard) with cheese sauce! HeHe… (“One Man’s meat is another Man’s poison” or whatever).
    Was the Italian one maybe Costa Verde; Verde di Taglio; Bieta Verde? These are all green-stemmed ones. They are available in the UK at The white-stemmed one is unsurprisingly called Costa Bianca.

    • Liz says:

      It may have been Costa Verde now that you mention it. You’ve got me wondering about the possibility of chard with cheese sauce now (all comments on brassicas notwithstanding…) I do like cheese with it so it could just about work….maybe…..

  4. I’ve been considering the rainbow stemmed varieties too, just because they look so good. I have mountains of the green stemmed variety though which I planted a year ago and are still going unbelievably strongly. Even though some of the plants bolted in spring I still have plenty on the go. Far more than we can eat so I think I’ve decided to leave the coloured ones until I have fewer green stemmed ones. I’m like you and find it so versatile to use in the kitchen – anything which calls for spinach I use silverbeet as well as using it in it’s own right. Plus mine is growing in quite a shady spot and still happy, gotta love that.

    I remember as a kid not liking the taste, but I really enjoy it now. My sister claims it makes her teeth feel fury, I can’t say I’ve found that problem with the stuff I grow, but she won’t try it.

    • Liz says:

      I never had the furry feeling from silverbeet but I’ve definitely had it from spinach. Thats interesting that some of your plants didn’t bolt. Was there anything different about those ones?

  5. Julie says:

    I’m a sucker for the pretty colors! I’ve never even tried a green stem variety. I will never know what I’m missing in terms of taste because I can’t part with the pretty colors!

  6. Gardenglut says:

    I confess I don’t love the flavour of silver beet or Swiss chard and dont grow it now. But I love how it looks. Many years ago in a garden in Brunswick (Vic) I grew these coloured stemmed plants just for the look of them in my flower garden.

  7. Robin says:

    We aren’t crazy about the flavor either. I did grow some last year, not this year though. Maybe I will give it a try again next year to see if our taste for it has changed. It is such a pretty veggie.

  8. Alex says:

    Reading your post and the comments, I am surprised that I seem to the the only one who prefers the coloured ones! How funny! I think the coloured chard varieties have a nicer flavour, and tend to produce thinner, crisper/crunchier stems. One of the things I like least about the white stemmed variety is that the stems are quite thick and a bit stringy. Maybe others are cutting the white stem out, so they only eat the leaves. I have also found that the white stemmed varieties tend to be more prolific in leaf production, maybe thats why they’re so popular, you get a lot of bang for your buck…

    A couple of people have noted that its makes their teeth feel funny, this is due to oxalic acid, which both spinach and silverbeet have in their leaves. In high concentration, it is considered poisonous, but in the tiny amounts we find it in these leaves, it is considered harmless. This is the reason behind why we dont eat rhubarb leaves, as the levels of oxalic acid are higher. A bit of a concern for people who have issues with kidbney stones (as these are formed from oxalate), but certainly bno risk for the majority of the population. It is also suggested that eating spinach and silverbeet with vitamin C will aid iron absorbtion.

    • Liz says:

      Interesting info about oxalic acid Alex. I have to admit I cut the stalks out of pretty much all my silverbeat as I prefer the texture of the leaves.

  9. Veggiegobbler says:

    I love it too. I grow the rainbow silverbeet. It looks great.

    • Liz says:

      I am really enjoying having it in the garden so I think I will just have to continue growing both it and the green stemmed varieties.

  10. The Italian one might be lucullus. It’s one of my favourites – mild and bountiful (and it self seeds, so you don’t have to remember the name to buy seed again!) Love silver beet, and I have dozens of recipes for it. But being the practical type I am 🙂 I tend to grow just Fordhook Giant and Lucullus. The rainbow chards are so beautiful in the garden though.

  11. Amber says:

    Love Chard!!!! I have the silver beet…find that the red variety doesn’t get as big. Am trying the costa verde this year. I love when they have the thicker stem. Have a great recipe that all love. Just sauté onion and garlic and add the stems (chopped). Add chopped (raw) chicken. After that is cooked add the green parts chopped and a touch of water. Then add a little soy sauce and whatever type of rice you like ( I love short grain brown) and the amount you would like. Take it off the heat and grate some cheddar cheese to the top. Broil for a few minutes. So yummy!

    • Liz says:

      The recipe sounds great – my kids are addicted to soy sauce so anything that uses it usually goes down well.. If it is Costa Verde I’m growing then I’ve been really pleased with it. I must go to the shops and find the seed packet and then I’ll know what I’ve got.

      • Amber says:

        just planted them today….mine are from Seeds from Italy and they are actually called Bieta—Verde a Costa Bianca. I’ll have to let you know how they turn out. Would love to hear your varieties this season and how they were. Just love how many varieties there are out there. Oh and I forgot to mention in the recipe up there that the rice is cooked and the soy sauce is just a bit (like a TBSP.) But whatever you need to do to get the greens in them right? LOL.

        • Liz says:

          Regarding the greens – absolutely. Most of my chard this year came from a Rainbow Mix from New Gippsland Seeds, plus the green stemmed Italian variety that I don’t knwo the name of. I will seek it out though and let you know.

  12. Christine says:

    Can someone tell me if there are more nutritional qualities in the coloured silverbeet than in the old fashioned green?

    • Liz says:

      Hi Christine,

      I couldn’t tell you I’m afraid. My gut feeling would be that they would be pretty similar but I have absolutely no evidence to back that up. I can’t see that the colour of the stalk would make a difference to nutritional content and even if it does it may depend on whether or not you actually eat the stalk. Having said that there may be nutritional differences between silver beet varieties that I’m unaware of, and it may also depend on which variety you are talking about when you talk about “old fashioned green”. I’ll repost your question though and see if anyone knows.

  13. meve says:

    A beautiful and large plant is growing among my silver beets. It has red long stalks and deep green leaves.
    I was wondering if it is a red silver beet (chard) or it is rhubarb. I know that rhubarb leaves are toxic if eaten so how do I make sure what sort of vegetable is this one. It looks so fresh that it would be a terrible waste discharging its leaves assuming that it is rhubarb.
    Any idea to help finding out what is it, plase?
    Many thanks

    • Liz says:

      Hi Meve,

      If the stalks look like the other silverbeets then I would is more likely to be silverbeet. Every variety of rhubarb I know of has squarish shaped stalks rather than flattened stalks. Also the leaves look different to silver beet leaves. The picture on this page shows the growth habit of rhubarb. If your plant has leaves like this rather than silver beet then maybe its rhubarb. You could try tasting a stalk to see if it tastes like rhubarb or silverbeet. Hope that helps – if you would like to email me a photo of it I might be more helpful.


  14. John says:

    I love the red stalked chard – looks good, tastes good and crops week after week for months!
    I eat it prepared Italian-style – steam it, drain it, then chop it up finely on the plate.
    Add salt and pepper, a dash of vinegar and a dash of olive oil.
    Mix that up and enjoy!

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