The Scent of Swiss Chard
I had no idea that Swiss Chard flowers smelled so good.
The flowers themselves are small and inconspicuous – albeit on top of rather incongruously awkward stems that flop onto their neighbors – and, unfortunately onto the cowslip primroses. The scent is powdery sweet, not cloying. How I got to revel in the scent of Swiss Chard is a (not that) long story.
Purchased seeds of Swiss Chard have not germinated for me as well as I had been hoping. Not that you need that many Swiss Chard plants around – even if you love Swiss Chard. At least you don’t need more than half a dozen once they are established, that is. And if course, that’s the hitch: ONCE THEY ARE ESTABLISHED. It does seem to take forever to be able to pick enough for a meal.
So the solution – as I see it – is to sow lots of Swiss Chard, and harvest whole small plants to cook with, leaving room for the other plants to mature over the following months.
As buying transplants was certainly not an option, I wondered if fresh seeds would germinate better and more reliably – as happen with other vegetables like leeks or parsnips. So I decided (although others in the family might question the choice of this verb in this particular case) to let a couple of plants that overwinter from last year bloom and set seeds.
I read that the pollen is very fine and will travel 1 mile or so, born by the wind. It will cross with other cultivars of Swiss Chard or with beets if they are blooming at the same time (it’s the same vegetable after all, Beta vulgaris; Beet was bred over time for its roots, Swiss Chard for its leaves or stems.) But I am pretty sure that there aren’t other Swiss Chard or beets blooming within a mile of Laughing Duck Gardens. My gardening neighbors don’t let things go to seeds. Don’t grow Swiss Chard either.
But I do have two kinds of chards: one with very thin stems and one with very large stems as well as Bull’s Blood beets from last year. The two kinds of Swiss Chard are used somewhat differently in cooking, and so I grow both kind. So for the last few weeks I have been snapping off the blooming spikes of “Poiree a Carde Blanche de Lyon” (the thick stemmed one) in favor of perpetual spinach beet (another name for Swiss Chard – sometimes also called Silver beet). While in the patch I noticed this delicate sweet scent with which I was not familiar and trace its to the perpetual spinach beet blooms… even a vegetable garden has some fragrant surprises