The best time to harvest chard varies according to variety. Here is our guide on when and how to harvest chard and what to keep in mind when storing it.
Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) has loads of health benefits and can be enjoyed in many different ways. It is also packed with healthy vitamins and minerals. However, if the vegetable is not harvested and stored properly, these valuable nutrients can be lost. To prevent this from happening, this article explains when the best time to harvest chard is, how to harvest it correctly and how to store the delicious leafy vegetable.
Is there a better feeling than harvest day, when you finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labour? Chard is a really low-maintenance veg that is easy to grow in your garden. And with the right know-how, you will be able to harvest chard all summer long.
When can you harvest chard and for how long?
Chard is ripe for harvesting throughout the summer and into autumn. Leafy spinach beet (also known as perpetual spinach or perpetual chard) is ready to harvest eight to ten weeks after sowing and can be picked from mid-June to the end of October. Swiss chard takes a little longer to ripen: Harvesting begins ten to twelve weeks after sowing it. From the end of May to the end of October, Swiss chard delights with its fresh, crunchy leaves and stems.
When is the best time to harvest chard?
- Leafy spinach beet: 8 – 10 weeks until ripe; harvest from mid-April to the end of October.
- Swiss chard: 10 – 12 weeks until ripe; harvest from April to the end of October.
Tip: If you have a greenhouse or polytunnel, you can grow chard there and harvest it fresh all year round.
How to harvest chard properly
Swiss chard is harvested with its vibrantly coloured stem. To do this, break off the individual leaves with their stems by hand just above the root. If you leave as little of the stem as possible, there is no danger of the remains beginning to rot. You can also cut off the individual leaves with a knife, but then they will not regrow until next spring. Harvest chard from the outside in, leaving the chard heart in the middle intact. Then new leaves will grow again and again right into the autumn. If you only want to harvest the chard once, simply cut off the entire chard plant just above the ground.
You can harvest leafy spinach beet in the same way as Swiss chard. Either harvest the leaves as needed from the outside in or cut off all the leaves at once just above the ground. Perpetual spinach will still grow back, even if you cut it off completely.
How do you harvest chard?
- Swiss chard: harvest individual leaves with the stem from the outside in
- Break off or cut off stems just above the root
- Leave the chard heart intact
- Alternatively, cut off the entire chard with a sharp knife just above the ground
- Leafy spinach beet: also harvest from the outside in
- Or cut off all the leaves with a knife or scissors just above the ground
- Perpetual spinach will sprout again and form new leaves
Tip: If you harvest the leaves of leafy spinach beet early, they are delicious in a baby leaf salad.
Storing and preserving chard
Unfortunately, chard is very difficult to store. So, we recommend harvesting only as much chard as you can use at one time. Fresh chard keeps well in the fridge for up to two days. To do this, wrap the chard leaves in a damp tea towel and place them in your fridge’s veg drawer. It is important that neither fruit nor tomatoes are stored in the same compartment, as these accelerate the ripening process.
How can you store and preserve chard?
- Pick and use as fresh as possible
- Wrap in a damp tea towel to store
- Store in the vegetable drawer of the fridge
- Can be stored for 1 – 2 days at the most
Can you freeze chard?
Yes, it is possible to freeze chard. This is an excellent way to preserve the leafy vegetable, such as when harvesting all of the remaining chard from the garden before the first frost in autumn and not all of it can be eaten fresh. Of course, you can simply freeze the fresh chard raw. However, it is a good idea to blanch the chard beforehand. This way it keeps its verdant colour and has a better flavour.
First wash the chard and remove any wilted parts. Cut any leaves that are too large into smaller pieces. Then place the chard in boiling water for one minute and afterwards plunge the leaves into ice water. Dab the blanched leaves with a kitchen towel and place into freezer bags. These can then be frozen – labelled, of course – and will keep for up to a year.
Step-by-step instructions for freezing chard:
- Wash the chard thoroughly, chop if necessary
- Blanch in boiling water for one minute
- Remove from boiling water and place in ice water
- Drain well and dab dry
- Place in freezer bag
- Frozen chard will keep for up to 12 months
Read our in-depth article on growing chard to discover even more about this healthy veg.