Swiss Chard Varieties: 12 Types of Chard Cultivars You’ll Love
Swiss chard is often a favorite crop amongst amateur gardeners. But finding the perfect Swiss chard variety for your garden can be a challenge, due to each of them being slightly different! In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines 12 different types of Swiss chard, and what you can expect from each of them.
When we think of Swiss Chard, many people imagine rainbow chard, which is actually just a colorful family of chard seeds that come together in a packet. Traditional Swiss chard is light to deep green with pale or white stems, but nowadays there are hundreds of varieties and strains of chard around the world.
Depending on your use, one of these swiss chard varieties may better suit your needs. Each of them looks and tastes slightly different, so it’s good to understand what you’ll end up getting before you start planting.
In this guide, we’ve narrowed down our favorite chard cultivars to grow in home gardens for maximum yields and nutritious flavor. Let’s take a look at each in a little more detail before you start planting for your next harvest!
- 1 Why Grow Chard in Your Garden?
- 2 Is it Really Swiss?
- 3 Chard and Company: the Beet Family
- 4 How to Choose the Best Chard Variety
- 5 Swiss Chard Varieties
- 6 Final Thoughts
Why Grow Chard in Your Garden?
Before you dig into all the available varieties of Swiss chard, you might be wondering, “What’s the point of growing this leafy green anyway?” If you already have kale or spinach, is it worthwhile to add chard to the mix? I’d argue yes, and here’s why:
Easy to Grow
Chard is one of the most beginner-friendly vegetables to grow. The seeds are large and easy to handle. The plants are vigorous and eager to yield. They don’t require much fertilizer and are fairly low-maintenance as long as you give them nice well-drained soil and regular watering. Plus, you really only need to sow chard once per year to have greens all spring, summer, and fall.
Plant Once, Harvest All Season
Swiss chard is the gift that keeps on giving. Because of the plant’s structure and regrowth capacity, you can simply harvest stems from the base all season long and the chard plant will keep producing new leaves from the center growing point.
It’s super easy to snap off a few leaves for each meal and then return in a week to get some more. As long as you never strip down your chard plant to less than three main leaves, it will faithfully re-grow until the first frosts of fall. And honestly, even if you do strip down most of the leaves, chard has so much energy stored in its beetroot that it will keep sending up more.
Like Spinach, Without the Bolting
There is nothing more frustrating than nurturing a delicate spinach crop all spring only to have it bolt the second the days reach about 75 degrees. Spinach goes to seed very quickly in hot weather, whereas chard is naturally bolt-resistant (some varieties more than others of course).
Spinach is a cold-weather annual that really doesn’t enjoy the summer months. On the other hand, chard is an all-weather biennial that seldom goes to seed in its first year. This means you can grow chard as a summer alternative to spinach for a similar flavor, nutrition, and culinary uses. Chard is far less finicky and much higher-yielding.
Rainbow chard is more than just a colorful addition to soups. All Swiss chard varieties are considered “supergreens” that are rich in vitamins and minerals. If you eat just a single cup of cooked chard you’ll get more than three times the recommended daily value of vitamin A and K, along with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and manganese. The leaves are also full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds.
Versatile in the Kitchen
You can use Swiss chard anywhere you would use spinach or kale. First, strip the leaves from the stems and cut them into ribbons. Then, dice the stems up into a rainbow confetti. Toss all of it into sautees, scrambles, soups, pestos, stews, or even on top of pizza. You’ll get a boost of fiber, an abundance of health benefits, and a mild delicious flavor in any recipe.
Is it Really Swiss?
Contrary to its name, this plant is not actually from Switzerland. This beet-family leafy green veggie is native to the Mediterranean and has been used since ancient Greek times. It is said that the chard plant was first domesticated from wild beets that grew around Sicily, Italy.
Some other names for this vegetable include “spinach beet,” “stem chard,” and “Roman kale.” It got the name “Swiss chard” thanks to the 19th-century Swiss botanist who identified and named the species Beta vulgaris in Latin.
Chard and Company: the Beet Family
Chard is a member of the Chenopodiaceae family along with spinach, beets, quinoa, and the weedy cousin lambs quarter. You will notice these plants all have similar leaf shapes and seed stalks (though you hopefully won’t see chard’s seed stalks if you choose a bolt-resistant variety…).
Swiss chard is technically a beet that has been bred for larger leaves rather than large bulbous roots. While beets have thicker bitter leaves, chard is more mild and palatable. Plant breeders have selected more tender, less-bitter greens over many generations of seed-saving and planting.
How to Choose the Best Chard Variety
To find the best Swiss chard variety for your garden, start by answering a few key questions:
- What growing zone do you live in? Is the season long and hot or short and cool?
- If you have hotter summers, you may want a bolt-resistant variety. This means the chard will resist going to seed in hot weather.
- Do you want to have chard year-round or only during certain parts of the year?
- Is your garden located in full sun or is it slightly shaded?
- Do you mostly use chard raw in salads or cooked in stews and sautes?
- What colors of chard do you most enjoy?
Once you’ve pondered these questions, check out our top 12 favorite Swiss chard cultivars and see what pops out at you. Worst case scenario, you could always try a few varieties and see what performs best in your conditions.
For even more customization, choose an open-pollinated variety that you can save seeds from and plant next year. Over time, you’ll breed your own chard that is specially adapted to your garden!
Regardless of what variety you choose, chard is very versatile and forgiving of a little neglect. Read our ultimate guide on How to Grow, Care for, and Harvest Rainbow Chard to learn to grow the best organic chard around, right in your very own organic garden. But first, pick some seeds!
Swiss Chard Varieties
While there are many different types of swiss chard to pick from, there are several that are more widely known and popular when compared to the rest. That’s because they taste fresh, and can make a great addition to just about any food that calls for them. Let’s take a look at our favorite cultivars.
This is the classic blend of chard stems ranging from vibrant Fuschia to golden yellow to whitish-green to deep burgundy. While not technically a single variety, this medley of seeds has one of the All-America Selections Edible Vegetable awards quite a few times. It takes 55 to 60 days to mature and grows to around 20” tall. This variety is especially bolt-resistant, meaning it won’t go to seed in the heat of summer.
Most all the colors are mild with tender stalks, but I especially love the red ones. Harvest when the leaves are between 8” and 14” in length for optimal flavor.
Best for Rainbow Colors
Best for Bolt-Resistance
Burpee Seeds introduced this classic Swiss chard in 1934 and it’s remained a garden staple ever since. This variety is high-yielding all season long and prefers full sun to slight shade. It grows taller than other varieties (up to 30”) and takes 60 days to fully mature, at which point you can harvest leaves continuously with vigorous regrowth.
The dark green leaves are thick and very savoyed (curly and crumply) yet have a tender crunch and a mild, sweet flavor. Use young ‘Fordhook Giant’ leaves raw in sales or salads, but the larger leaves are best cooked to bring out the sweetness.
Best for Sweet Flavor
One of the most well-known heirloom Swiss chard varieties, ‘Lucullus’ produces heavily crumpled leaves that yield heavily through hot weather until the first frosts. The broad white ribs are crisp and crunchy amidst thick light green leaves.
This chard takes about 50 days to mature and grows a stout 20” in height. It’s named after a Roman general who was a passionate gardener and lover of Swiss chard.
Best for Hot Summers
Named after the Oriole bird, this gorgeous open-pollinated organic Swiss chard matures in about 60 days and gets more and more vibrant through the season. The golden-yellow stems stand out amongst lustrous deep green leaves.
It has a moderate savoy, long elegant stalks, and a neutral flavor. Add it to your own personalized blend of rainbow chard or simply go golden for vibrant antioxidant-rich greens all season long.
Best Orange Variety
This collaborative breeding project between Johnny’s Seeds, Organic Seed Alliance, and Nash’s Organic Farm yielded a stunning organic red Swiss chard with a special affinity for northwestern and northeastern climates.
It is the most bolt-resistant red variety on the market, with vibrant rhubarb-red stems and crumply savoyed leaves.‘Rhubarb Supreme’ takes about 60 days to reach bunching maturity but can be harvested for smaller leaves a couple of weeks sooner.
Best Red Variety
Best for Bolt-Resistance
It doesn’t taste minty, but it has bright candy-cane striped stems and verdant green leaves. The vivid pink and white striations make for beauty in the garden as well as the kitchen. This variety is highly bolt-resistant and disease-resistant. It takes about 60 days to mature and yields abundantly in almost any climate.
Best Unique Coloration
This extremely bolt-resistant variety produces vibrant, clean leaves that grow perfectly upright for baby greens harvest. It has a heavy savoy as well as bright Fuschia stems and veins for beautiful color and texture in salads. It only takes about 28 days to mature to baby leaf size, but can also be grown to full size in 65 days. This premium quality baby chard grows back again and again after each cut so you can have a tasty addition to your salad every night if you wish!
Best for Baby Leaves
Hybrid seeds are traditionally bred (no genetic modification here) by crossing two inbred lines of parents. The result is an ultra-vigorous, fast-growing variety like ‘Red Magic.’ The cranberry red stems and greenish-merlot-colored leaves are great for salads as well as steamed, sauteed, or baked.
This variety needs about 55 to 65 days to mature in full sunlight. At just 12 to 18”, it is more stout than other cultivars and performs well in container gardens.
Best Hybrid Variety
Best for Container Gardens
It’s not often you get to see bright magenta pink in the vegetable garden, but this chard shines just as loud as any daisy. The color holds when cooked and the leaves are tender when harvested young.
‘Pink Lipstick’ is open-pollinated (you can save the seeds and replant true-to-type) and ready to harvest in 30 to 60 days. The plants stay pretty stout at just 8 to 10” tall.
Best Pink Variety
Who doesn’t love cheerful microgreens? We can’t talk about chard varieties without mentioning this lovely bright blend of microgreen beet and chard seed. They offer maximum color in just 16-25 days. Harvested at the micro stage, these greens are loaded with nutrition and a tender delectable flavor for salads, garnishes, and slaws.
Best Chard Microgreens
Ok, this is a unique one. Perpetual spinach belongs to the same species as chard and beets (Beta vulgaris) but it is a special sub varietal that tastes and looks more like their spinach cousin. The leaves are flatter and more pointed, the stems are slimmer, and it can be grown as a low-maintenance alternative to spinach.
It is biennial, so it seldom bolts (goes to seed) in its first year, which is amazing for gardeners who struggle with summer-bolting spinach. Matures in 50 days.
Best for Bolt Resistance
Best Spinach Alternative
This rare and delicate Swiss chard is resilient in the face of harsh weather and pests, yet super tender and lovely in the kitchen. The stems are pale greenish-white and the leaves are dark green with a lovely flat shape. Plants take 50 days to mature and are the best cut at 7 to 9”.
Best Tender Variety
So many choices! Who knew there was so much diversity in chard varieties? Tall, short, savoyed, smooth, orange, Fuschia, pink-striped, or classic green… whichever cultivar you choose, it will thrive in your garden with some preparations and a little TLC. Check out our detailed growing guide to yield the best Swiss chard you’ve ever grown.
Remember, diversity is the key to resilience. If you can, grow a few different varieties to experiment with what performs best in your specific garden while adding a buffer for unexpected weather or challenges.