You can grow your own food. And we can help!


harvesting chard
What's the best way to harvest chard?
Crops: Topics:

Question details

I love chard from my garden, and it's so reliable, abundant, and long-lived. I'm wondering about the best way to harvest it. 

1. I've always heard to take leaves from the outer stalks. Yet, I usually wind up taking the biggest leaves (before they become gigantic!), which often are in the middle, growing straight up. Has anyone found it makes a difference to the plant's health to pick from the outside versus anywhere else?

2. At what point should I cut the stalk? Just below the leaf or where the stalk meets the base of the plant?



Pam, 1. I usually harvest starting with the leaves that are second to the outermost leaves. The outermost leaves are usually a bit too old and tough and may have some damage. I leave them to allow the plant to continue to photosynthesize really well while regrowing the inner leaves. I usually stop picking when I reach leaves that are smaller than about the size of a playing card and I always leave at least 3 leaves in the middle. 2. The stalk should be cut close to the base. That's how the plant drops leaves naturally. When you cut the stalk the remaining piece will fall off in a few days. The stalks are totally edible. Good luck, Emil
Hi Pam. I put this question to our facebook page members to see how they'd answer it and their answers match up with my own. I harvest from the outside in and from the bottom up. It's true that the outermost stalks often droop and I will often sacrifice a few of them to get to ones that are more vibrant looking. We cut ours just above ground level and separate the stalks and leaves in the kitchen. The stalks need to be cooked about 5 minutes more than the leaves. Chard is so prolific that you shouldn't feel bad taking only the best-looking parts. The compost pile will be happy to "eat" the rest! Roger
Thanks, Rex, Roger, and FB crew!
Hey Pam, I would remove the smaller. battered, slug eaten leaves from the outside of the swiss chard plants. The reason for this is that damaged leaves produce stress hormones that tell the plant it is under attack. Without the stress hormones the plant will produce bigger, sweeter leaves. So long as there is a well developed root system and a few central leaves you can harvest all you want. Your plant might not be as big as some but you are probably getting more production.
Helpful... thanks!
Pam, I have found that I get the optimal production by allowing each plant to grow until it has begun producing leaves of the size I desire. Because I grow for market, I use a leaf slightly larger than my hand. The key is to always wait until leaves reach than size because cutting smaller leaves (because I need just a few more) results in a reduction in the circumference of the central stalk. The smaller stalk can never recover from that because it is a permanent constriction upon the flow of nutrition and water from the roots. I cut the stalks of the leaves fairly close to the central stalk to reduce the chance of its becoming a vector for disease. I, then, trim the leaf stalks to a uniform length so that those you like the stalk have a uniform size. Have you tried the Italian chards? In Italy they are use the term, bietola for it. Seeds from Italy currently has 3 cultivars.. My favorite is Verde da Taglio as it is so hardy, easy to grow, not attractive to flea beetles, doesn't get bitter when it bolts, volunteers more plants than I can ever use and will generate 3 separate harvest when planted in the fall while only taking a single summer season.. I'm in zone 6b in the mountains of WNC. I understand it will grow through the winter in low tunnels into zone 5. I find Swiss chard frequently too bitter for me. Bietola verde da taglio's taste and texture fairly are fairly close to spinach. I will happily respond to inquiries.
Sorry for the delay in responding, Harry, just saw your post. Verde da Taglio sounds wonderful!
Harry, I loved your recommendation Verde da Taglio. Do you have any other favorite cultivars of common veggies?
You can start harvesting when the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. Cut off the outer leaves 1-1/2 inches above the ground with a sharp knife. If you harvest the leaves carefully, new leaves will grow and provide another harvest. You can cut the ribs off the chard leaves and cook them like asparagus. The rest of the leaves are eaten as greens. You can cook them like spinach or eat them raw. You can store chard in the refrigerator in ventilated plastic bags.
Thanks, Nelson! Sounds like you know chard. And, probably obvious, but I hadn't thought about a sharp knife being helpful. I've just been tearing off the leaves.



Join our e-list to stay in touch





About us:

KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.  

Join our mailing list:


Connect with us:

Contact us:

Kitchen Gardeners International
3 Powderhorn Drive,
Scarborough, ME, 04074, USA
(207) 956-0606