But I want to talk about chard. Rainbow chard, to be precise. Because M.N. has created something so diabolically beautiful that I have a hard time cutting it and eating it. I know it’s good for me. And I even know how to cook it, chopped up and sautéed in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and crushed garlic, and finished with pine nuts and a little goat cheese. But those Corvette yellow and fluorescent pink stalks are glorious in their rediculousness. I mean, food is not supposed to be this color.
And so, such benign neglect has created the Jack And The Beanstalk of Chard.
This photograph was taken with my arm outstretched over my head, pointing UP. Yes, that’s right, my chard is about 7 feet tall. It reminds me of the zucchini plants we came home to after a summer week away when I was a kid. That benign neglect produced steroidal-looking Louisville Slugger-sized zukes. Haiti could have been fed with our zuke crop that week.
I do not know what I am doing in my garden. Like the rest of the yard, I am a “try it and see” gardener, learning as I go. I read the magazines, and have a worn out copy of Sunset’s Gardening and the Golden Gate Gardening Guide, but I can never really fully grasp the precise measurements of nitrates to phosphorus and fertilizer to water. Or how deep and wide the hole should be. Or where and when and how the crops should be rotated. (Do people really follow all those rules?) I have learned that a drip system will save your plants from dying, and that giving those plants food (in the form of compost and fertilizer), will make them happier. I’m not sure why that wasn’t more obvious to me, but I guess a number of plants had to die before I made the connection.
So while I have a hysterical chard plant that has even drawn the attention of my neighbor, because she can see it OVER the hedge between my garden and her house, I also have lovely little lettuce plants that grew themselves from seeds that germinated in the old lettuce I never pulled out before it bolted. I am enjoying a salad as I write, created from a big beautiful head.
My only piece of advice here is something that I learned the hard way. Actually, two things. You don’t have to pull out chard by the roots if you want to harvest the leaves. You can simply snap them off from the outside, and more will grow. But then, you have to stay ahead of it, or you too will have a giant chard. And you can slice off a head of lettuce, leaving a couple leaves and inches at the bottom, and a new little enthusiastic lettuce plant will start sprouting in its place.