The Basics of Five Color Silverbeets
By Art Davidson
Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard, aka Bright Lights Swiss Chard, is a rainbow of colors, and the greens are quite mild and delicious. These heirloom beauties originated in Australia in the 18th century. There are some botanical experts that believe Five Color Silverbeets are five different varieties rather than one. Regardless of the controversy, this is an amazing assortment of color, texture and flavor. The range of stem colors is yellow, orange, pink, red/violet and white. I have personally noticed this variety growing in varying shades of the five colors. How versatile is that!
Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris subspecies vulgaris) originated in the European/Mediterranean region and goes by many names—silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, sea kale and mangold. This plant is neither Swiss nor a chard. Talk about irony. Perhaps it is called Swiss because it was first described by a Swiss botanist named Gaspard Bauhin. The chard reference is probably attributed to the use of the leaf stalk, similar to cardoon or artichoke.
Growing Five Color Silverbeet
Personally, I do not care for beets. So I was surprised by the gentle, pleasing flavor of the Five Color Silverbeets. Eaten raw, the leaves are best used 3 inches long and less, otherwise the flavor tends to be strong. Planting Five Color Silverbeet is the same as for other beets. The seed germinates at 50 degrees (F) and seedlings thrive at 60 to 70. The typical seed is rather a cluster of seed with 1 to 4 seeds in the cluster. Plant the seeds 3 to 5 inches apart in a row 1/2 inch deep. Thin the extra seedlings to reduce crowding. Don’t waste those seedlings! They make wonderful mini greens for salads. The baby greens stage comes in 30 to 35 days, which makes Five Color Silverbeets desirable for succession planting. Cropping (cutting the lower leaves of the Swiss chard plant) is another way to increase the yield of this marvelous vegetable.
By the way, Five Color Silverbeets grow well in some shade. This is a plus for those blessed with partial shade and limited garden space. I believe this is a benefit which produces tender greens and will produce into the summer when greens are hard to grow.
How to Harvest Five Color Silverbeet
Harvest the leaves by cropping from the bottom of the plant. As the leaves get big enough, use the leaves and stems like spinach or other greens. The health benefits of Five Color Silverbeet make them worthy of generous consumption. All varieties of Swiss chard are a good source of vitamin C and an excellent source of Vitamin K. Vitamin A and alpha and beta carotene (which convert to Vitamin A in the body) are more goodies for your body. A host of vital minerals such as copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus round out the benefits of Five Color Silverbeets.
Grown in containers this colorful plant makes quite a statement. Try planting this variety in the center of the planter surrounded by lettuce and radishes. Crop the bottom leaves first and pick your lettuce and radishes as they reach maturity. Or use the Five Color Silverbeet as a center planting with edible flowers like pansy. The combinations are endless!
Five Color Silverbeet is welcome in your edible landscape. The vibrant stem colors with shiny leaves will compliment and contrast with plantings of edible flowers and other colorful vegetables. This variety also works well as a mass planting.
How about floral arranging? To use this variety for floral arranging, you must use an entire potted plant. The leaves are too tender for cut flowers. To place in an arrangement, plant seeds in small (2 inch) pots with soil. When the plants are tall enough, insert differently-colored cut or potted flowers to make a striking floral arrangement.
Five Color Silverbeet is diverse enough to make anybody desire all of its wonderful attributes. You will not be disappointed!
Art Davidson has been a horticulturist for 40 years. His education and additional certifications include ornamental horticulture, agronomy, ISA Certified Arborist, Integrated Pest Management, and Master Gardener. His experience includes growing vegetable, herb and flower transplants, hanging baskets, holiday crops, ornamentals, tropicals, field crops, woody ornamentals and trees. He started gardening as a child and he still gets excited when seed breaks soil and starts to grow!
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