Swiss Chard Harvested in Edmonton on November 15, 2010
I enjoyed the book Four-season Harvest a few years back. The author is from a mild-weathered state in the U.S. (I can’t recall it right now), and he has enjoyed tremendous success in extending the harvesting season (not the growing season, mind you) throughout their mild winter. While Edmonton will never be accused of having a mild winter, we can extend our harvest so that it at least touches all four seasons.
There are a few vegetables that are perfect for growing in Northern Alberta. Of that group, my favourite is probably Swiss Chard. This leafy green, found at or near the top of every “most nutritious vegetable” list, thrives in all mild weather. Plus 30 out? No problem, harvest some chard for a mid-summer salad. Hard frost last night? Not an issue, blanch chard leaves and drench in sesame oil and soy sauce for a tasty side dish.
Chard can first be harvested around July 1st. I harvested my last bundle two days ago on November 15. That’s 4.5 months of as much chard as we wanted – it virtually never goes to seed and it requires little water to get the job done.
I did resort to some of the tricks that I learned from my parents and from the aforementioned book. I covered the chard before our first snowfall on October 25:
Think there’s nothing edible in this garden? Think again.
That evening I needed to throw some chard in a soup that I was making:
Swiss Chard is a super-hardy, cold tolerant miracle!!! *raises hands to the sky*
Even though the temperature has been dropping below –5 Celsius most nights recently, the leafy goodness remained until today, at which point the entire patch is finally frozen solid.
A cold-hardy vegetable isn’t actually growing when it’s freezing every night. Instead, it is being perfectly stored. In its natural environment, with its roots in the ground, the veggie will taste 100% fresh once harvested.
With the use of cold frames in the spring, there is a lot of potential for the harvesting of fresh vegetables much longer than it may seem possible. If cold frame-grown lettuce is ready to eat in April (is this realistic? I haven’t tried it yet), and tarp-covered chard ready until the middle of November, Edmontonians can eat local, fresh, organic, free vegetables for almost eight months a year!