Recognised as a part of the Amaranthaceae family, Silverbeet or, Beta vulgaris cicla, as it is Botanically known, is often incorrectly called spinach. Spinach has a different Genus name of the same family. In many countries Silverbeet is more commonly recognised as Chard.

Silverbeet can be grown mostly all year round in most climates apart from the extremes of summer and winter. Silverbeet is generally pretty hardy providing it gets good drainage. Silverbeet will thrive in ground rich in organic matter. It can be sown directly in the soil or raised in pots for later transplanting.

Silverbeet is from the same Genus and species as Beetroot. Beetroot is grown typically as a root vegetable and silverbeet is grown only for its leaf and stalk. The leaves of Beetroot can also be eaten.

As a tender, plate vegetable (cooked or salad), Silverbeet can be harvested when the leaves are young. When the leaves are about 6 inches (15cm) long and before the typical curling of the leaf is an ideal time to pick. Leaves can be picked from about 2 inches in length for salad mixes.

Older leaves can grow more than 24 inches (60cm) and have curlier leaves. Leaves grown to this size are ideal for adding to Pasta sauces, stews and soups.

One of the most common cultivars is “Fordhook Giant”. More recently cultivars have include many mixed coloured stems including orange, red, purple and the typical white.

Silver beet has a wide range of uses.

The young shoots around 2 inches long can be cut and used in salads with similar sized beetroot leaves, spinach and rocket. Toss with a dressing of crushed garlic, vinegar and olive oil.

Larger young leaves can be cooked and used as a side vegetable or shredded and mixed into salads with lettuce, cherry tomatoes and cubes of tasty cheese.

Larger leaves are ideal for adding to soups and stews. One of my favourite recipes with silverbeet is a traditional bolognaise sauce with 3 or 4 cups of finely shredded Silverbeet leaves. Allowed simmering for an hour or so and serving over penne or fettuccini.

The stalk of Silverbeet can be used with the leaf or it can be removed and cooked separately. The white stalk is ideal cooked with green beans or broccoli and eaten as a warm salad with a crushed garlic and olive oil dressing.

All leaves of Silverbeet, especially the larger leaves should be washed well to remove foreign bodies and insects that may have found home in the curly undersides of the leaves.

Author's Bio: 

Eric J. Smith is an Experienced Horticulturalist with a keen interest in Organic Gardening. Eric's interest in Organics also shows in his interest in Organic Nutrition and Organic Skincare. More information can be found on these by visiting his websites... for Organic Health related products and information on living an Organic Lifestyle. for general health information and articles on living a Healthy Lifestyle.

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