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Old January 10, 2018   #1
jmsieglaff
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Default Trialling 4 chards as spinach substitute

Everyone in our house loves fresh spinach. The problem is spring spinach harvest is done in a blink of an eye, I have consistently failed at fall spinach (the only thing I haven't tried is starting plants and setting them out) not to mention the impossibility of growing spinach during the summer.

So in 2018 I'm trialling 4 different types of Swiss chard to see if one (or maybe more) standout as the best spinach substitute--specifically for eating raw as the bulk of a salad. As such I plan on planting densely and routinely harvesting leaves while small. In the past I've grown Rainbow swiss chard--I would not consider it an acceptable spinach substitute.

The varieties to be trialled include (all from Baker Creek):
Barese
Bionda Di Lyon
Perpetual Spinach
Verde De Taglio

I welcome any experience any of you have had with these varieties!
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Old January 10, 2018   #2
HudsonValley
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I don't like chard, so can't share any experience, but you might also consider orach as a spinach substitute.
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Old January 10, 2018   #3
Ann123
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Out of those chards I have only grown perpetual spinach and it tastes just like chard. Definitely not a spinach taste. Exactly same taste as rainbow chard, but less stalks and more leaf. But the same earthy taste.
Oracle doesn't taste like spinach either to me.

Maybe we need to accept that spinach is a spring vegetable?

Last edited by Ann123; January 10, 2018 at 05:29 PM.
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Old January 10, 2018   #4
pmcgrady
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To me Swiss Chard tastes like dirt and really hasn't grown well in my garden...
I started growing a few different kinds of Kale to replace spinach, grows like a weed here, re seeds itself the second year and then you have thousands to deal with. Deer have been coming to garden, scraping back snow and eating kale and a couple rows of sugar beets I left in. Kale is hardy, scrape away mulch and it's green!
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Old January 10, 2018   #5
KarenO
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For cooking I far prefer Swiss chard over spinach personally.
For eating raw, a baby leaf or bunching variety is best such as a variety called “discovery” sold by McKenzie seeds here.
mature chard is not meant to be eaten raw but rather sautéed or steamed and it is so delicious.
KarenO

Had a look, sorry looks like it’s discontinued but perhaps someone else sells or perhaps look specifically for a variety used for baby leaf chard if eating raw.

Last edited by KarenO; January 10, 2018 at 08:09 PM.
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Old January 10, 2018   #6
bower
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Well, you'll have to let us know if any of those varieties has less of a "chard" taste.

Chard is so ridiculously easy to grow, and it just keeps going. I've been growing it but not motivated to eat it more than once every couple of weeks. The yellow one I grew last winter was pretty mild tasting and the stalks were tender when growing in the greenhouse. Outdoors though they got tough in a hurry.

One other "substitute" I just remembered - komatsuna. Not exactly spinach but a very tender all purpose green. I mean, not tough like kale, and not chard tasting.

Last edited by bower; January 10, 2018 at 09:39 PM. Reason: add
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Old January 10, 2018   #7
Zeedman
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Maybe the problem is not the taste of chard per se, but the maturity of the chard? For eating raw, the very young leaves might be more palatable. Chard tolerates a very wide temperature range... you could succession sow a short row every week Spring - Fall.

I've tried nearly all of the spinach substitutes, and none taste exactly like spinach - especially raw. New Zealand spinach comes close, but to me tastes like a cross between spinach & lamb's quarter. If you like spinach raw in salads, you might find Egyptian spinach to your liking... very mild flavor, and bears heavily all summer.
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Old January 11, 2018   #8
jmsieglaff
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I agree that the maturity of the plants is likely key to finding a chard that can pass for spinach. That's why I'm planning on planting quite densely and harvesting leaves when small--about the size you'd see baby spinach in the stores. This should keep the stalks small too--which in mature chard to me tastes like celery but with a pungency to it.

I'll look into the Egyptian spinach, I should also try the New Zealand spinach again--I tried it many years ago and I don't recall being a big fan.
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Old January 11, 2018   #9
nancyruhl
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For what is worth, I grow Malabar spinach, which isn't spinach but has a similar flavor. It is a vine and you get a continuous harvest. The youngest leaves taste the best, but older leaves can be used in cooking. It is also quite pretty with red vines and purple berries.
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Old January 11, 2018   #10
BigVanVader
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Why not start a landrace Spinach? I'd start with some commercial hybrids mixed with OPs. You would also likely have better success with spinach already bred for organic conditions. Like the ones at Wild Garden seeds or Adaptive seeds. Their seeds will germinate much better than typical store bought spinach. There are several tricks to getting a good stand of spinach, I can go in to more detail if you want to try this option.
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Old January 12, 2018   #11
jmsieglaff
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigVanVader View Post
Why not start a landrace Spinach? I'd start with some commercial hybrids mixed with OPs. You would also likely have better success with spinach already bred for organic conditions. Like the ones at Wild Garden seeds or Adaptive seeds. Their seeds will germinate much better than typical store bought spinach. There are several tricks to getting a good stand of spinach, I can go in to more detail if you want to try this option.
I get the landrace thought, but it's not something I really want to embark on right now. I've got some tomato and squash breeding projects that take up some time in addition to the gardening time. I also rotate space through the growing season since I grow in a relatively small garden and don't want to lock up the space letting spinach go to seed.

I've trialled many varieties of spinach and really like the variety I grow each year, but the day length and warmth of the summer just make spinach impossible during the summer (I've even tried shade cloth without any success). I'm sure there are some tricks to get a good fall crop--specifically with getting seeds and seedlings to survive August (when they have to be planted up here)--any tips there?
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Old January 12, 2018   #12
BigVanVader
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Biggest thing is fresh seed. Never use spinach seed thats more than 2 years old. Soak seeds in ice water in the fridge overnight, plant and immediately water. cover with row cover fabric and water 2-3 times a day. Most bad germination is from uneven moisture so anything to remedy that helps. Adding a layer of good compost b4 seeding can also help a ton.
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Old January 12, 2018   #13
jmsieglaff
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Thanks BVV. I did a short soak, but maybe an overnight is really what is needed. I have been diligent about watering the seeds and adding compost. I do think buying fresh seed each year for spinach is important.

I have this yellow planter that I have grown micro dwarves by the patio door in the winter and I didn't do that this year with a late fall keeping tomatoes coming through about Halloween. So I'm going to do a mini test run of these 4 chards to see if any differences can be seen--obviously a different environment than outdoors but might provide some insight. One difference I noticed already when sowing the seeds was the Perpetual Spinach and Barese varieties had smaller seeds than the other two.
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Old January 12, 2018   #14
greenthumbomaha
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nancyruhl View Post
For what is worth, I grow Malabar spinach, which isn't spinach but has a similar flavor. It is a vine and you get a continuous harvest. The youngest leaves taste the best, but older leaves can be used in cooking. It is also quite pretty with red vines and purple berries.
Nancy, when (and how) do you start your Malabar Spinach?
I faintly remember posting to a thread about Malabar in a prior year ... memory is not what it once was.

I watched the following process an was in awe. An expert at my local GC starts hers about now in a 4 inch pot on a heat pad. covered, with a second cover and in an indoor greenhouse that was within the main indoor greenhouse. It was very warm in there, which she said was necessary.

The gc later sells them in a 4 inch pot for fir 6 dollars for each seed/plant!

- Lisa
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Old January 12, 2018   #15
nancyruhl
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I use that same germination technique as my tomatoes. Potting mix with a heat mat underneath. They are not particularly hard to germinate, from my experience. They are also pretty in flower and readily set enough seed to collect for next year. I grow them on netting beside my runner beans, so they don't take up much room.
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