Growing Chicory and Growing Endive
Growing Chicory and Endive
Cichorium intybus and C. endivia
Many people confuse these two salad plants, so it is sensible to deal with them together; they are, in fact, closely related, and in some cultivated forms they are quite similar in appearance.
When growing chicory, you will find that it is grown in two main forms: the forced ‘chicons’ (blanched hearts) known as Witloof or Brussels chicory, and the leafy forms resembling cos lettuce. Endive produces the familiar curly salad leaves. With the exception of the Witloof type, cultural conditions are the same for chicory and endive apart from their. All are usually untroubled by pests or diseases, although protection against slugs and snails is advisable.
How to Grow Chicory – Witloof Chicory
Known botanically as Cichorium intybus, this vegetable is grown for its leafy blanched shoots in the winter months. Seed is sown out of doors in late spring in well-prepared 1.25cm (in) deep in rows 38cm (15in) apart; thin out to 20-23 cm (8-9in) apart.
The plants are kept clean by hosing and are lifted in the autumn, the tops cut off and stored between layers of fine sand in lines in a dry place or at the foot of a dry wall. The roots are lifted in as required and packed tightly together in boxes with some soil between them. If kept moist, dark and at a temperature of 12.8°C (55°F) shoots will be ready for cutting in 3-4 weeks, or longer at lower temperatures.
A useful place is beneath suitable draped greenhouse staging, providing a succession of blanched shoots which can be forced every fortnight.
Great improvements have been made to this type in recent years and, although many nurseries still sell the old type which needs covering with soil when the chicons are being produced, the cultural directions given here apply to the easier-to-grow varieties recommended below.
Sow the seed in blocks in April to June. The seeds, two or three to each growing point, should be sown at a depth of about 12 mm (½ in) and about 150—200 mm (6—8 in) apart. The seedlings should later be thinned to the strongest at each point.
The soil should be deep and fertile — preferably a plot that was well-composted for the previous crop. Witloof chicory is an acid-hater, so add lime to the soil if necessary. A slightly acid soil will require about 160 g/m2 (about 5 oz per 10 sq ft) of lime, which should be well worked in the previous autumn. An open but not necessarily very sunny site is suitable. Water the soil in dry weather and keep it clear of weeds at all times. Remove any flower shoots.
Growing chicory requires the roots to be dug up from about mid-October for chicon production. Take the required number, cut off the leaves 12 mm (½ in) above the crown, and trim the root ends. The roots should be up to 300 mm (12 in) long and about 75 mm (3 in) in diameter; discard thin, damaged, or forked examples. Forcing is done in deep boxes or pots containing peat or sandy soil. The roots are packed vertically, 40—50 mm (1-1/2 — 2 in) apart, with their crowns about 25 mm (1 in) above the surface of the soil. Water them in gently, and then cover the boxes or pots with inverted ones of the same size so that the crowns are in complete darkness. Store at a temperature of 10—13°C (50—56°F).
It is vital to exclude all light, but the ‘hearts’ (chicons) should be examined every so often and the soil kept moist. The crop will be ready in three to four weeks, depending on the temperature. Repeat the operation at intervals, according to your needs. After the leaves have been cropped the roots can be planted again in the spring. Plants not lifted for forcing may be earthed up, covered with about 200 mm (8 in) of soil, for later outdoor-grown chicons.
Growing Endive and Other Chicories
Sow chicories from mid-June to mid-July as for Witloof, but 250—300 mm (10—12 in) apart, and endive from July to September 300 mm (12 in) apart. If an extended cropping period is required, sow successionally.
Soil and site requirements are as for Witloof. If the site was not prepared with compost for a previous crop it should be improved by the addition of compost dug in well before sowing and allowed to settle. Just before sowing rake in a light dressing of a general fertiliser.
The modern varieties of chicory, as recommended below, grow like cos lettuce and need no blanching; they are harvested in late autumn and winter. When growing endive, you should begin blanching them from September, about three weeks before they are required, by covering them with a large light- excluding pot or box. Blanch a few at a time, as they do not keep well.
WITLOOF: ‘Normato’, early, forcing to December, ‘Mitado’, mid-season, forcing to February; ‘Tardivo’, late, forcing late-winter to spring
OTHER CHICORIES: ‘Crystal Head’ or ‘Snowflake’; ‘Sugar Loaf’ (’Pain de Sucre’); ‘Winter Fare’
ENDIVES: ‘Batavian Green (’Batavian Broad Leaved’), for autumn and winter; ‘Green Curled’ (’Moss Curled’), for late summer and autumn
Soil: Good, not acid
Sow: Witloof, April — June; other chicory, mid-June — mid-July; endives, July — September.
Harvest: Witloof, from mid-October; other chicory, late autumn — winter; endives, September onwards