Wednesday, 31 July 2013
Lucullus Swiss Chard
We've been growing Bright Lights (Rainbow) Swiss chard for the last few years in the garden, but I thought I would try something else this year. I remembered Lucullus Swiss chard from my allotment garden days as being absolutely superb. It's fairly readily available; we got ours from William Dam but you can also get it from a number of other Canadian and Ontario seed suppliers. I have not been disappointed - it's just as good as I remember it.
According to William Woys Weaver, in Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, Lucullus Swiss chard is a selection from White Curled Swiss chard. White Curled was introduced in France in 1828 by Vilmorin; Lucullus made its appearance in 1890. It belongs to the same group of chards that produced Bright Lights chard, having a fine large but thin leaf, rather savoyed (crumpled and indented) and fairly delicate in texture and flavour. Weaver refers to these as Chilean Beet, but makes no explanation of what makes them Chilean. As my post for Bright Lights describes, coloured Swiss chards have been around since the late 1500's at least, and the origin of chard is Mediterranean. Lucullus, however, is often referred to as being a Dutch variety; entirely possible.
Lucullus is named after Lucius Licinius Lucullus, a Roman general and patron of the arts and agriculture. He lived so well after his retirement with vast plunder from Asia Minor (Turkey) that his name became synonymous with culinary extravagance and gourmet quality - a pretty fancy association for what's basically a beet.
The stalks are pale celery green, but with that familiar earthy tang of Swiss chard or beets (which is after all what Swiss chard is), and maintain their tenderness even when quite large. The leaves are particularly mild and sweet, yet round and full in flavour. This is the most spinach-like of the Swiss chards I have had, more so than the variety known as Perpetual Spinach, which physically resembles spinach more but which has a stronger typical Swiss chard beety flavour. Many people proclaim Lucullus, sometimes spelled Luculus or called Giant Lucullus, as the best tasting Swiss chard around, and I think they may well be right.
It's often described as heat tolerant and bolt resistant, both of which descriptions perplex me a little. Of course it is; it's Swiss chard. Swiss chard likes good steady moisture and decent soil, especially if you are picking it heavily, but is otherwise a very easy to grow, tolerant plant. As for bolting, it's a biennial so unless you manage to get it to overwinter, it will not flower or form seeds. Same as all the other Swiss chards.
At any rate, I highly recommend this one. Swiss chard in general is a great vegetable, easy to grow, and a well-managed planting will provide greens for up to 5 or 6 months in a fairly modest space. Lucullus in particular is hard to beat for flavour and ease of growing.