Attack of the Reptilian Swiss Chard

It is perhaps a sign of my gardening novice, especially trying to garden in the cold season for the first time, that I still compare my homegrown goods to the supermarket produce, those clone-like collections selected for the most marketable size, shape, and color–even the organic ones! I must remind myself to embrace the naturally beautiful shapes that come from my garden.

In her book, Grow, Cook, Eat, Willi Galloway says “Chard leaves become leathery and the colorful stalks turn tough and stringy as they age.”

Would you like to know what leathery chard looks like?

I wish you could feel it through the computer screen. It doesn’t really feel squeaky like a leaf of lettuce anymore. It truly does feel leathery. Like a reptile.

It appears I waited a bit too long to begin harvesting the first of my swiss chard plants. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was waiting until they turned huge with umbrella-like leaves, such as the chard that I find in the grocery stores. Instead, they turned into prehistoric reptilian leather, curling as they cure upon veiny magenta supports…

I have hope, though, that the greens (though they are, admittedly, more of a purple-brown-black now) can be salvaged for something – baked into a casserole or wilted into a soup, perhaps? No matter. Like many greens, chard is a cut-and-come again, so I’m anticipating some new growth in the next few weeks. Leather leaves are tucked away in the fridge, just in case.

Any gardeners or swiss chard fanatics out there who can stroke my ego reassure me that this is normal? And/or that my leather leaves won’t make Alex shudder when he sees swiss chard on our dinner menus? And/or impart magical swiss chard-growing wisdom upon me? Do tell.

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