Silverbeet 'Southern Europe'
Scientific Name: Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris
Common Name: Silverbeet 'Southern Europe', Swiss Chard 'Southern Europe'
Southern Europe silverbeet is one of the best heirloom varieties both for cooking and eating raw in salads due to its tender, spinach-like leaves that are sweet and have low bitterness compared with other varieties. Due to their low stinginess the chopped leaves make an excellent topping for pizzas and are also great for adding to omelettes, quiches and frittata. Mix finely chopped Southern Europe silverbeet leaves with ricotta cheese for a gourmet file pastry filling.
Southern Europe silverbeet will produce maximum leaf growth when planted in full sun, however gardeners in warmer climates may prefer planting it in a lightly shaded position to reduce wilting and heat stress during the hottest part of the day. Silverbeet grows best in a free-draining, fertile soil rich in organic matter. If your soil is sandy, heavy with clay or pale in colour and lacking in organic matter you can improve it by placing down a layer of compost or well rotted manure prior to planting silverbeet. Worms and soil micro-organisms will help to incorporate this organic matter through the soil improving its structure and fertility. Southern Europe silverbeet needs lots of additional nitrogen to produce its large, tender leaves. Top dress around them with a nitrogen-rich organic fertiliser such as blood and bone once the seedlings have become established. Applying an organic liquid fertiliser, worm juice or compost tea every few weeks can also help to ensure continuous production of silverbeet leaves throughout the entire growing season. Silverbeet can survive most frosts, the leaves may wither and turn brown after heavier frosts but the plants should recover. Southern Europe is a bolt resistant variety so is a good choice for growing in warmer climates. Water regularly and mulch around silverbeet plants to retain soil moisture and prevent their leaves becoming limp during hot weather.
When to Sow
In temperate regions of Australia sow Southern Europe silverbeet seeds anytime of the year except Winter. In frost-free subtropical and tropic areas of Australia you can sow Southern Europe silverbeet seeds all year round.
How to Sow
Southern Europe silverbeet seeds should be sown 2cm deep. Silverbeet seeds are actually a dry fruit cluster that contains up to 5 or so individual seeds. Many of the seeds may not be viable so sow 2 seed clusters per hole if growing for larger silverbeets for cooking or 4 seed clusters per hole if growing for smaller leaves for salads. You shouldn't need to thin the seedlings as they're quite happy growing together in a small group. Space planting holes for silverbeet about 30cm apart.
Southern Europe silverbeet seeds will germinate quickly with the seedlings emerging 8 to 10 days after sowing.
Time to Harvest
Southern Europe silverbeet takes about 8 to 9 weeks from planting to harvest, although individual outer leaves may be picked earlier than this as needed.