Chicory, Endive and Witloof

Description - Endive (Cichorium endiva and chicory Cichorium intybus) are members of the Composite family. Endive has two forms, narrow-leaved endive called curly endive and the broad-leaved endive which is often called escarole. The outside leaves of an endive head are green and bitter. The inner leaves of the endive head are light green to creamy-white and milder flavored. Both types of endive are used in salad mixtures with blander- flavored lettuce to prepare a salad with a "little bite" to the flavor.

Chicory is an important salad vegetable in Europe but not in the U.S. It is most popular in France, Belgium and Holland. In the U.S., chicory is grown for the green leaves which are used as a salad green and for the thick roots which are used in the southern U.S. as an additive flavor to coffee and sometimes as a coffee substitute.

Witloof Chicory (also called French or Belgian Endive) denotes the blanched, tight heads produced by forcing (or growing in the darkness) the big mature chicory roots in forcing structures.

Culture - Endive is grown like lettuce. Seed is sown in early spring in the garden. Plants can be started in the greenhouse and transplanted to the garden for growing and extra early crop. Chicory for greens is grown much the same way. For chicory greens, seed is planted in early spring and the leaves are ready for harvesting in about 60 days. The greens are often blanched by clipping the leaves together when they are about ten inches long. Roots for producing Witloof chicory are grown this way. Seed is planted after danger of frost in the spring. The roots are harvested in the fall before hard freezing occurs. The foliage is removed and the roots are stacked in the field. After they are exposed to cold the roots are planted upright in moist sand and forced to grow a new head by keeping the air temperature near 64 degrees.

Selection - Endive heads should be clean, free of browning, crisp and bright green. Chicory greens resemble Dandelion leaves and should be fresh and free of brown streaks or spots. Young, tender leaves are preferred over older, tougher leaves. Select chicory heads (called chicons) should be pure white, very tight with only the outer two leaves visible. The chicon size for highest grade is at least one inch thick and four and one-half inches long. Endive and chicory greens placed in plastic bags will store in refrigeration for about ten days. Chicory roots should be stored in the refrigerator at 38 to 42o F. and will keep for several months until used or forced to produce chicons.

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