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Spotted these jolly Swiss Chard at Thrive last week

  • Spotted these jolly Swiss Chard at Thrive last week
  • Spotted these jolly Swiss Chard at Thrive last week
  • Spotted these jolly Swiss Chard at Thrive last week
  • Spotted these jolly Swiss Chard at Thrive last week

Not only do they look good, they're extraordinarily good for you. Packed with vitamins A, C, E, manganese and zinc, they offer a whole range of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and are a good source of calcium and vitamin K for bone health.

No wonder Thrive, the gardening therapy charity grows them. They're fun to grow and great to eat. The flower bed is part of a lovely, varied garden at their HQ in Beech Hill near Reading, maintained by the people they help.

Thrive is a charity that uses gardening to bring about positive changes in the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health. They also work with people who are isolated, disadvantaged or vulnerable.

The other two photos are of their Battersea centre, which I visited earlier in the summer, where volunteers created these easy-to-work table height flower beds.

As most of us know who use this site, an afternoon's gardening has a remarkable way of making you feel healthier and happier. Thrive therapists utilise this to design tailored programs for each individual. Methods involve exercise to improve strength or mobility; giving a sense of purpose and achievement; connecting with others and reducing feelings of isolation or exclusion; acquiring new employable skills; and just being outside in touch with nature to give a sense of well being. It's remarkable work and well worth checking out their site: www.thrive.org.uk and their Grower page on GreenPlantSwap.

As for the Swiss Chard, there's nothing Swiss about them. They were grown by the Greeks and the Romans who prized them for their medicinal properties. The name chard apparently comes from the French 'carde' which they also used for Cardoons, a much larger, celery-like plant. They are part of the Beet family (Beta vulgaris) and one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow.

Plant seed or plugs between March and July in rich, well-drained soil and water steadily through the season. They'll survive drought, but keep it steady and they are less likely to bolt. You can either take leaves from time to time for the kitchen or crop them to the ground. They should give three good harvests and meanwhile fill the garden with brilliant colour. They are happy plants indeed.

Comments (3)

  1. Grower

    Rob Johnson, Green & Furry pet and garden care

    Aren't these fantastic, I used to grow them tears ago. I think ' bright lights ' was the mix I had. Indeed they are good for you, but my wife hates it saying chards taste too earthy and she loves greens normally. I don't have that problem stripping the leaves from the central shaft and mixing them with eggs and seafood for something delicious. Cardoons are great plants. They stand out and are very striking. I have seen them in the walled garden at Stansted Park in Sussex when I used to work there, and it registered - 16 within the walls one winter and a few more since . They must have been 8ft or more in hieght, huge plants that obviously liked the long baking hot summers down there, unlike me, a cloud and frost loving Cumbrian.

  2. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    My personal favourite for Swiss Chard is super simple. Steam for a few minutes then serve with a generous knob of butter and light seasoning. This keeps their brilliant colour and earthy taste, which I love with steak ... and it looks sensational on the plate.

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    I grew these last year for a Client - lovely bright colours but ugh, not to my taste for eating. I'll grow them again, but only for decoration!


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