Last October, I planted Luculus Swiss Chard. (The seeds were from 2009 – still germinated very well). It didn’t grow particularly well thru the very cold winter. This spring it took off and for the past month or so I have been drying a load or 2 each day. Swiss chard is a cooler weather plant and I can see some of the plants starting to bolt. I can see different styles of leaves and have chosen the plants that I want to let go to seed – plants that have very large, wrinkled leaves, shorter stems are preferred.
These are dried swiss chard leaves. It only takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 110 to 115 degrees to dry a load. After doing a few loads, I realized that I can lay leaves right up next to each other, touching along leaf edges. This means that I can pack about a third more in the dryer that I first thought.
These dried leaves are what is left after laying them out before drying – leaves touching – across the sheet. You can see that 2 leaves actually dried together. Not a problem – they are totally dried. These are leaf halves – I rinse them off, lay them flat and slice along each side of the main vein – it doesn’t dry quickly – and dry the leaf material, not the main stem.
These are just a few of the leaf shapes from the same batch of Luculus Swiss Chard seed packet. Some leaves grow to almost 24″ long. I like to let them grow large to dry. Smaller is better for eating raw. At this point in the season, I am just working on letting the best leaves grow as large as possible before cutting and drying.
I am carefully culling the leaves. I cut and dry the largest and most wrinkled leaves – a personal preference. I have picked the plants that I want to allow to go to seed. For those chosen few, I am leaving the small leaves and some larger leaves – cutting off only the largest leaves. Some of those chosen plants are starting to bolt, as is expected as the days warm. I will be removing and drying the ‘other’ plants as they start to bolt, eventually leaving only the bolting chard as it goes to seed. I have never before let swiss chard go to seed so I really don’t know what to expect.
I have already planted squash, tomatoes and peppers around the chard. They are growing, waiting their turn to expand into the space now occupied by the swiss chard. This picture shows some of the chosen plants – they have strong, large, wrinkled leaves – just the way I like them.
The little plants in front of the chard are pepper seedlings. You can’t see from these pics, but all of the chard plants have lots of cut off stems at their base. Standard instructions usually say to cut all of the chard leaves off a few inches from the ground and let it grow back. I don’t do that – I cut the largest leaves to dry and allow the baby leaves to grow. The chard will be gone when they need that space. I don’t have all of the room that I would like so I am working on figuring out how to work the planting as I go from spring/summer to fall/winter gardening, and back again.
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