Sunday, January 12, 2014
Twinkle Lights and ‘Bright Lights’
As I leave behind the twinkle lights used in December décor, I savor the slightly longer daylight hours that January brings. Those few extra minutes of sunlight each day are welcomed by plants AND people. In the coming weeks, our daylight hours will be noticeably longer, and sun beams will stream through our window panes to brighten our homes and provide a light source for our houseplants.
There is another bright light that comes to mind… a leafy green vegetable called Swiss Chard ‘Bright Lights.’ Although tolerant of hot weather, this chard grows best in spring and fall—it loves cool weather and often can be harvested through the month of November (even in Southeast Wisconsin). ‘Bright Lights’ is a cultivar of Beta vulgaris and offers essential fiber and Vitamins A, C and K in its deep green leaves, plus attractive petioles (leaf stems) in shining bright colors of yellow-orange, white, burgundy and scarlet.
Young boys and girls would enjoy planting ‘Bright Lights’ seeds in a children’s garden since the chard grows quickly and their petioles provide an enticing array of vivid colors. Leaves with stems can be harvested young and used raw in salads. If cooking is preferred, roughly chop larger leaves and finely mince stems before steaming or sautéing. A bit of butter or olive oil and fresh minced garlic is all you need in your pan; cook for one minute, then add chopped ‘Bright Lights’ to the garlic butter. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes while stirring; serve immediately.
The vegetable garden area at Chicago Botanic featured a section of ‘Bright Lights’ last summer, and I grew it in my garden as well. If you wish to add a splash of color to your sun-loving veggie and herb garden next summer, include ‘Bright Lights’ in your garden design.
M. Lynn Schmid, Certified Master Gardener