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Planting chicken food

By Laurena Mayne Davis

I first was intrigued to add chard to the garden after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” which chronicled her family’s efforts to eat mostly locally produced food. (Haven’t read it yet? You should.)

To illustrate the fact children can get excited about fresh, wholesome food, Kingsolver writes in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” that her young daughters held a blind taste test to see if the different-colored rainbow chard stalks — pink, orange, yellow and red — had different tastes.

Chard is a beautiful plant, grows quickly and — best of all for high-desert gardeners — tolerates heat. This year I had zero motivation to garden early, missing the planting window for cold-loving lettuce and spinach.

Chard to the rescue for our leafy greens Jones. It’s not too late to plant.

Chop chard leaves fresh in salads, or blanche or sauté and use leaves and stems as you would spinach. Chard has one more distinctive characteristic: It’s prolific. Cut stems at ground level and more will grow, Hydra-like, all season long. No one can eat that much chard. I still have quart bags of frozen blanched chard from last year. I don’t like it to bolt, though, preferring to harvest throughout the season.

Luckily there are other residents of the Davis Ranchette who love leafy greens: chickens. So when we’ve had our fill and the chard is getting tall, I chop it down and throw it in the chicken pen.

No word yet if they’re holding their own taste test.


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