If you like spinach and you like chard, you could grow Erbette, a cross between the two.
Often referred to as Perpetual Spinach, Erbette is in fact a relative of chard. Erbette is not the same as many other perpetual spinaches. This traditional Italian cultivar has narrower leaves and midribs.
Highly recommended if you long for spinach in the summer, Erbette is extremely resistant to bolting, it is sweeter and more tender that other Swiss chard varieties and is one of the easiest and most productive vegetables for a small space.
Erbette will grow to around 30cm (12in) in the first year and responds particularly well to repeat cutting.
With just one sowing you can feast on these succulent dark green leaves and white stalks the entire summer, through autumn and most of the winter.
Use raw in salads, steamed with other greens or in place of spinach. Include in quiche or lasagna for a savory change of pace.
This seed has been organically produced. The seed has been harvested from plants that have themselves been raised organically, without the use of chemicals.
You can grow Erbette in most parts of the garden as long as it is not in deep shade but will give a better yield when in a sunny spot. While this plant is very forgiving and will grow where the soil is the poorest, like any plant this prolific grower will respond to compost, manures and fertilisers. They require a good draining soil.
One planting will almost always last the season, so plan a permanent place for it. Perpetual Spinach grows well in a soil of around 6.5 to 6.8 pH. An acidic soil will stunt growth. It is resistant to most plant diseases but seedlings will need protection from slugs.
Sowing: Sow in spring, alternatively sow in autumn to overwinter.
Sown from March to August and you can start harvesting from June.
Sowing Indoors: Sowing early.
Erbette is normally sown directly into the soil, but for an early crop, a few seedlings can be started indoors. Transplant them outdoors when the night temperatures are at a minimun of -2°C (28°F). It will sprout fairly early, and will not be harmed by spring frosts.
Sowing Direct: Sow in Spring as soon as the soil can be worked
Sow the seed thinly 5cm (2in) apart at a depth of 1cm (½in). If growing more than one row, space the rows about 38 to 45cm (15 to 18in) apart. The seedlings will appear in about 15 days and should be watered for the first month or so if conditions are dry.
The plants will need thinning to about 15 to 25cm (6 to 10in) between plants. If left until around 15cm (6in) in height before thinning then the thinned plants can be treated like an early harvest and the young leaves will be extremely tender and tasty.
Sowing in Containers:
Pick a good-sized container around 45cm (18in) wide and 45cm (18in) deep. Fill it with compost and sow your seeds as you would do in a vegetable plot. Aim to end up with around four plants in a container this size.
Erbette is a hardy vegetable and will grow with little or no attention. Their main need is for weeding. This can be done by regular hoeing. An alternative is lay black plastic and let the plants grow through this. Black plastic is particularly useful because they stay in the ground for so long.
Erbette is sturdier than spinach and can cope better with water shortages, however you should still water regularly to ensure optimum growth and prevent bolting. Bolting leads to premature flower and seed production and will divert the plants energies away from leaf growth. If a flower stalk develops then clip it off to extend the harvest.
To extend harvesting past the first hard frost you can put the plants under a cloche or polytunnel to extend the growing season.
Harvesting: Approx 50 days to maturity.
Erbette can be picked as soon as the leaves are large enough to harvest, usually in four to six weeks. The best leaves for salads are the younger leaves, about 8cm /3in long. It is a pick and come again crop use a knife rather than pulling off the leaves. For multiple harvests from the same plant simply pick the outer leaves and leave the inner younger leaves. Be sure not to damage the central terminal bud at the centre of the young growth. You can also if you wish harvest the whole plant.
Let the outer leaves grow as big as you want. If you can't eat it as fast as it is producing, cut and discard leaves as they begin to wilt. If the patch gets out of hand, do major surgery on the leaves. The inner leaves will take their place quickly.
As the weather cools, the leaves are their tastiest, if they turn a little too bitter in mid-summer, make sure to come back to them later. Harvests until the first hard frost, many gardeners pick Erbette as late as Christmas!
After picking the leaves simply wash and add to salads or wash and then quickly heat in a pan using only the water that clings to the leaves after washing. This will avoid overcooked soggy leaves.
Erbette does not store well so should either be eaten within a few hours of picking or stored in the salad box of the fridge for a maximum of three days.
Erbette is a member of the beet family. …it just doesn't have a bulb.
Leaf beet has been consumed since ancient times throughout Europe. In parts of Ireland, where it is known as 'wild spinach', it has also been revered as a cure for sick sheep. It is very popular among Mediterranean cooks and the first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.
Spinach beet and Chard are highly perishable and do not transport well. Leaf beets are therefore rarely found in supermarkets in Western Europe and the USA. However, leaf beets are a popular vegetable grown for local consumption. Outside of Europe, spinach beet is an important crop in Northern India and parts of Central and South America. They are particularly valued in warmer temperate regions, such as the south of France, where the summer weather can be too hot to grow other green leafy vegetables.
Leaf beets are known as salk in Arabic; tian cai in Chinese; bette or blette in French; mangold in German; bieta a foglia in Italian; acelga in Portuguese; svekla listovaja in Russian; and bleda or acelga in Spanish.
Leaf Beets and Chard– What’s the difference?
Leaf beets are of two types, depending on whether or not a thick leaf midrib and petiole are present.
Erbette, Perpetual spinach or Spinach beet (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) is grown for its leaves, which are used as greens or a potherb. It is distinct from spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia expansa). Spinach beet does not have a thickened leaf midrib or a thickened petiole (leaf stem). It also lacks a swollen taproot of Beetroot. (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris).
Spinach beet has never been bred intensively and there is no tradition of distinct cultivars. Three European varieties were proposed by Helm in 1957, based on foliage colour, but this classification has not persisted. Perpetual spinach is usually sold generically as 'spinach beet' or 'leaf beet'. However, the exception to the rule is the Italian cultivar of perpetual spinach called Erbette, which is listed in seed catalogues.
Chards are grown for their foliage and in particular their thickened leaf midribs and petioles. As with spinach beet, there is no swollen taproot. Although some leaf beets have fairly thick roots, they are never fleshy. The white root of chard has in times past been consumed medicinally, in the form of infusions, and very occasionally as food, for example, in times of hardship.
Chard is often used synonymously with Swiss chard, but older chard varieties are sometimes considered to be distinct from Swiss chard. The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalogue publishers. Several types of Swiss chard can be distinguished, based on petiole or leaf midrib colour and other characteristics. Swiss Chard is sometimes also called seakale beet or silver beet. Lucullus is one of the oldest chard varieties and it has green leaf blades and white petioles.
Chards occur in many colourful forms, including Bright Yellow Chard and Ruby or Rhubarb Chard. A popular recent introduction is Bright Lights Swiss Chard, an improved chard that has leaf midribs and petioles that occur in a mix of colours.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1.5 grams Average Seed Count 100 clusters of seeds Common Name Heritage variety (Italian) Other Common Names Silverbeet, Mangold, Bietola, Blettes, Acelga Family Chenopodiaceae Genus Beta Species vulgaris subsp. cicla var. flavescens Cultivar Erbette Hardiness Hardy Biennial Spacing Space seeds 38 to 45cm (15 to 18in) apart. Position Thin to 15 to 25cm (6 to 10in) between plants Time to Sow Sow in spring or in autumn to overwinter Time to Harvest Approx 50 days to maturity, Cut and come again. Notes Incorrectly called Chard or Swiss Chard