Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris
This leafy member of the beet family traces its story back to Sicily where it was domesticated for its tender leafy greens long before the root was bred and selected to become the deeply coloured earthy vegetable we know today as a beet. The last few years have seen an explosion of plant breeding that has brought us the rainbow coloured stems we often see at farmer’s markets. Chard is a biennial and seeds can be started indoors a few weeks before last frost and then transplanted or direct sown once the soil has warmed up a bit. Sometimes, especially if stressed with temperature or lack of moisture, we see plants bolting in the first season when the plant sends up a flower stalk. Normally, you can continually harvest the larger outer leaves for most of the growing season. Small baby leaves are also delicious in salads.