Swiss Chard, Silverbeet

Beta Vulgaris subsp. cicla

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Stem.

Leaves - raw or cooked like spinach. A very good spinach substitute, the leaves are large and easily harvested, yields are high. Leaf stems - cooked. The steamed stems retain their crispness and have a delicious flavour, they are considered to be a gourmet vegetable. Flowering stem - cooked. A broccoli substitute.

Medicinal Uses

Antitumor; Emmenagogue.

Although little used in modern herbalism, beet has a long history of folk use, especially in the treatment of tumours. A decoction prepared from the seed has been used as a remedy for tumours of the intestines. The seed, boiled in water, is said to cure genital tumours. The juice or other parts of the plant is said to help in the treatment of tumours, leukaemia and other forms of cancer such as cancer of the breast, oesophagus, glands, head, intestines, leg, lip, lung, prostate, rectum, spleen, stomach, and uterus. Some figure that betacyanin and anthocyanin are important in the exchange of substances of cancer cells; others note two main components of the amines, choline and its oxidation product betaine, whose absence produces tumours in mice. The juice has been applied to ulcers. A decoction is used as a purgative by those who suffer from haemorrhoids in South Africa. Leaves and roots used as an emmenagogue. Plant effective in the treatment of feline ascariasis. In the old days, beet juice was recommended as a remedy for anaemia and yellow jaundice, and, put into the nostrils to purge the head, clear ringing ears, and alleviate toothache. Beet juice in vinegar was said to rid the scalp of dandruff and scurf, and was recommended to prevent falling hair. Juice of the white beet was said to clear obstructions of the liver and spleen. Recommended for treating headache and vertigo as well as all affections of the brain.

Cultivation details

A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in sun or light shade in moist soils but prefers a rich well-drained light neutral to alkaline soil. Beets grow well in a variety of soils, growing best in a deep, friable well-drained soil abundant with organic matter, but doing poorly on clay. They prefer an open position and a light well-drained soil. Some salinity may be tolerated after the seedling stage. Beets are notable for their tolerance to manganese toxicity. Plants are tolerant of saline soils and respond positively if salt is added to non-saline soils at a rate of about 30g per square metre. Plants frequently self-sow if they are happy, sometimes too freely. Can be available all year round if the winters are not too severe. In severe winters it is possible to dig up some plants and move them to a protected area such as a greenhouse in order to produce fresh leaves. A good companion for dwarf beans, onions and kohl rabi. Its growth is inhibited by runner beans, charlock and field mustard.