Half a Plate of Produce

By Susan Littlefield

"Make half the food on your plate fruits and vegetables." Following this tip is an easy way to bring your diet in line with the USDA's recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. The USDA recommends that we all increase our intake of vegetables and fruits and include a wide variety of vegetables, especially dark green and red and orange vegetables and peas and beans.

Growing your own is an economical way to fill your plate with fresh, healthful, great-tasting fresh produce. Here's a suggestion from the National Garden Bureau for a new variety to add color and nutrition to your garden and your diet this season.

'Celebration' Swiss chard from Chriseed offers a kaleidoscope of color to your vegetable patch; in fact, its multi-colored stems are so attractive you may decide to add this chard to your ornamental garden as well. It produces uniform, 10-inch tall plants with deep green leaves and vibrantly colored stems in shades of pink, orange, and yellow. It's ready in just 30-33 days to harvest as baby chard; mature plants take 50-60 days from seed.

Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2-4 inches apart in spring, beginning about 2 weeks before your last expected frost date, making repeat sowings through the season. Gardeners in hot summer areas may need to take a midsummer break, but chard makes a great fall crop once the weather moderates. When seedlings develop their first set of true leaves, thin to one per cluster using small scissors to clip out the extras at soil level; thin again when plants are 4-6 inches tall, spacing them 6-12 inches apart, depending on whether you plant to harvest baby or mature plants.

For more information on 'Celebration' Swiss chard, go to: National Garden Bureau. For more information on USDA Dietary Guidelines, go to: USDA.

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