CHARD/BEETROOT

CHARD/BEETROOT

The chard or Beta vulgaris var Cycla, belongs to the botanical family of the Cheniopodiaceae. Native to the Mediterranean coast, it has been used by mankind since ancient times and it seems that it may have been known to the Assyrians in 800 BCE. The Romans were familiar with two varieties and, beyond its culinary purpose, it was renowned for its healthy properties. According to Plinius the Old, it was an outstanding remedy for dysentery and jaundice and, when cooked with lentils, purified the intestines. Today, two varieties of chard are cultivated: the Swiss chard cost and the cutting variety. The beet variety is another cultivated variety that produces a thick, red root also known as red carrot. The healthy properties of the chard are those common to other leafy vegetables: the presence of high water, low-calorie (17 kcal / 100 g), good presence of vitamins (A and C) and minerals, especially iron. It has good laxative, refreshing, and soothing properties.

CULTIVATION

The Swiss chard is cultivated on fresh terrain that is well-drained and not waterlogged. Its thermal requirements are rather limited. It resists low temperatures even one or two degrees below 0 Celsius. This fact allows for its cultivation during winter and in mountainous areas, even up to 1200 meters above sea level. It needs a good supply of water and organic matter. Fertilization for a production of about 3 kg per square meter should consist of 3kg/sqm of organic compost, which should be added as fertilizer base, 30 grams of ammonium sulfate, 20g/sqm of triple superphosphate and 20g/sqm of potassium sulphate. On top of the soil will be evenly distributed 20 to 30g/sqm of calcium nitrate or guano. Nitrogenated fertilizer, however, should be dosed carefully, as the chard—like all leafy species—tends to accumulate nitrates especially when there are large quantities available in the soil. Nitrates, when ingested, tend to turn into nitrites, which if taken in large amounts can be harmful to one's health.
In southern Italy's temperate climates, fall-winter colture is practiced, with transplants in September and harvests in December or January. In northern Italy, spring-summer colture is practiced, with transplants in March and harvests starting from May onwards. The distances between transplants should be 30 to 40 cm between rows and 20 cm on the row, with an average of 15 to 25 plants per square meter. For the cutting chard, distances are much narrower and the number of plants per square meter can be doubled. It can be collected more times being careful of cutting the leaf but not the bud which is located at ground level.

ADVERSITIES

The adversities that affect the leaves are cercospora (pitting), powdery mildew, and bacterial diseases. Several effective counter-measures against these pathogens are copper or, alternatively, biological control with fungi of the Trichoderma genus. The cure must be handled very carefully given the short period of cultivation and even the use of copper should be respectful of the periods of shortage indicated on the label.