Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques
Growing Endive & Chicory
by National Gardening Association Editors
In recent years gourmet European and Asian greens have gained popularity in this country. They add a spicy taste and an interesting texture to regular salads, and are sold separately or prepackaged in mixes (such as mesclun). For the adventurous, other edible greens, such as purslane, sorrel, miner's lettuce and chrysanthemum are readily available through seed catalogs.
Endive is a cool-weather green with a distinct, clean, sharp taste. You'll find it in the produce bins of most stores, but it's expensive. It doesn't like hot weather too well, but it can take some pretty hard frosts. So it's a good winter green down South where the temperatures are mild. In the North it's grown as a spring or fall crop only.
Plant the seeds directly in the garden, keeping the soil moist until they come up.
For a spring crop, plant seeds in the garden two to four weeks before the last frost-free date. Start fall crops about 15 weeks before the expected date of the first fall frost. Plant in wide rows and thin later to six to seven inches between plants. You can start endive in flats indoors like head lettuce and transplant it later if you want.
Like other greens, endive tastes best when it grows quickly and steadily. Make sure it gets enough water and fertilizer.
To reduce the bitterness of endive, cut off the light to the heads, or "blanch" them, right out in the garden about a week before harvesting them. Gather the leaves of the plant and tie them together above the head or cut the tops and bottoms out of milk cartons and slip these homemade blanching tubes over the plants.
There are two types of endive. Curly-leaved types, such as 'Green Curled' and 'Salad King' have narrow, frilly leaves. The green known as "escarole" is actually a less-curly endive with broader leaves, and is grown the same way as endive. 'Batavian Full Heart' is a popular escarole.
Chicory grows wild in many parts of the country. It's easy to recognize in fields or along the road when the plants sport many small blue flowers in late summer. Although the leaves of wild chicory are edible when young and tender, there are a number of cultivated chicories that provide gardeners with better eating. Cultivated chicories come in three basic types: leafy types grown for greens, those grown for forcing indoors and those grown for their roots, which are used as a coffee substitute.
The leafy chicories form a diverse group, more popular in Europe than in this country. Both the beautiful red-leaved varieties, such as 'Guilio' and 'Red Treviso', and the green-leaved, or sugar-loaf types, such as 'Catalogna', are shaped like Chinese cabbages, and are sown in mid-summer for a fall or early winter harvest.