Swiss Chard

bietola da coste

Common name
Swiss Chard (sin. Leaf Beet or Perpetual Spinach Beet)

Scientific name
Beta vulgaris L. var. vulgaris  (sin. Beta vulgaris L. var. cycla [L.] Ulrich)

Family
Chenopodiaceae

History and Origins

Of European and north-African origin which later spread throughout Asia and America.

Nutritional characteristics

Chard is very rich in water (about 90%), mineral salts (especially potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron), and pro-
vitamin A (or beta-carotene). Chard is a refreshing food that has a calming effect against inflammation and disorders of the digestive system (stagnation of food or stool, constipation, hemorrhoids)

Diffusion and importance

Chard is a minor crop cultivated in Italy on a total area of about 4,000 hectares. Thanks to its wide adaptability to different climatic conditions, it is present in all Italian regions, though with greater diffusion in Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Latium and Puglia.

Botanical characteristics

Biological type: herbaceous biennial cycle, annual crop.
Root: robust, moderate-deep taproot system.
Stem: very short.
Leaves: in general, of a lanceolate, elongated oval or sword-like shape; a bright green colour; with a smooth or rumpled leaf; 20-50 cm in length; distinguished in two types:
Swiss chard: with larger leaves, central white veins, very evident; wide stalk, fleshy, flattened, white or reddish in colour;
Perpetual Spinach Beet: with small leaves; tight central green veins; normal stalk.Flower stalk: forms in its second year; branched to form a large panicle; it has small, greenish flowers gathered in clusters of 2-4, in turn gathered in spikes; flowering occurs from June to August; pollination is anemophilous with frequent cross-fertilization.
Fruit:
an indehiscent glomerule, creased, with 3-5 seeds.

Pedo-climatic requirements

Climate
La Chard has low thermal requirements (see table); germination at optimal temperatures takes place in 4-8 days,
at 10° C for 15-20 days; resists the cold well, but low temperatures (5-10° C) during the early stages of the cyclepredispose the plant to seed production (bolting).

Esigenze termiche della bietola da coste

Soil
Chard is able to adapt to different types of terrain, but prefers deep, cool and well-draining soil (with no stagnant water), with a high level of composted organic matter, with a pH level between 6-7; very tolerant to salinity.
The crop is to be planted in the autumn or spring and should not be replanted in the same soil for 2-3 years.

Varieties and/or commercial types

There are two types:
Swiss chard: with larger leaves, central white veins, very evident; wide stalk, meaty, flat, white or reddish in
colour;
Perpetual Spinach Beet: with small leaves; tight central green veins; normal stalk.
The best cultivars have a low susceptibility to premature seeding, yellowing of the leaves and diseases, an erect posture and a not very fibrous fleshy stalk.

Swiss chard
Swiss chard

 

Perpetual Spinach Beet
Perpetual Spinach Beet

Elements of cultivation practices

Planting
Swiss chard can be sown or transplanted. Sowing takes place in autumn (August-September) or spring (March-April).Transplanting allows for a greater uniformity of the planting and a faster crop cycle with respect to sowing by about 20 days.
Sowing is done in rows spaced 35-50 cm apart; the row is sown continuously, then thinned to 15-20 cm. Sowing requires about 35-40 kg/ha of raw seed; if pelleted, there are “units” of 100,000 seeds on the market and usually one or two units are utilized per hectare.
Transplanting is done at a distance of 30 x 35 cm or 35 x 35 cm; in some cases the plant spacing is also denser (for
example 25 x 30 cm) arriving at 80,000-140,000 plants per hectare.

Cultivation practices
Chard takes away approximately 6 g of nitrogen, 3 g of phosphorus and 6 g of potassium per kilogram of product
collected (a hectare of beet can produce up to 35-40 t/ha). Nitrogen fertilization must not be excessive because physiologically, the chard tends to accumulate nitrates, which after ingestion contribute to the formation of toxic nitrosamines.
Irrigation is generally necessary during the entire cultivation cycle, with particular care during the summer months
when water reduction or thermal stress can provoke the growth of the seed or yellowing of the plant.
Thinning is advised to aerate the soil in the case of surface crust and to eliminate weeds.

Harvesting

The transplanted crop is harvested after 30-60 days. Sown chard tends to be ready about three weeks later than
transplanted chard.
The harvesting of chard takes place in the north of Italy from March to November; in the center, from February to April
and from September to December; in the south, from January to April and October to December.
Harvesting is done by hand by periodically removing the completely matured outer leaves, then assembling them in
bunches, but this can also be done by cutting the entire plant at the base so as to obtain a full head.
Chard that is destined for industrial processing is generally harvested by machine at a single time.
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