(Chicory and Witloof Chicory)
Dr. Joe Masabni
Department of Horticulture
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Endive, Cichorium endiva, and chicory, Chichorium intybus, are members of the Composite family. Endive has two forms – the narrow leaved curly type and the broadleaved one which is often called escarlee. The outside leaves of an endive head are green and bitter. Inner leaves are light green to creamy white and are milder flavored. Both types are used in salad mixtures with blander-flavored lettuce to prepare a salad with a “little bite.”
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 a s a salad green. Its thick roots 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 placing (or growing in the darkness) big mature chicory roots in forcing structures.
Endive is grown like lettuce. Seed is sown in early spring in the garden. Start plants in the greenhouse and transplant to the garden for an extra early crop. Chicory for greens is grown much the same way. For chicory greens, plant seed in early spring and the leaves are ready for harvesting in about 60 days. The greens are often blanched by tying the leaves together when they are about 10 inches long. Roots for producing Witloof chicory are grown this way. Plant seed after danger of frost in the spring. Harvest the roots in the fall before hard freezing occurs. Remove the foliage and stack the roots in the field. After they are exposed to cold, plant the roots upright in moist sand and force them to grow a new head by keeping the air temperature near 64°F.
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. Chicory heads (called chicons) should be pure white and very tight with only the outer two leaves visible. The chicon size for highest grade is at least 1 inch thick and 4 1/2 inches long. Endive and chicory greens placed in plastic bags will store in refrigeration for about 10 days. Store chicory roots in the refrigerator at 38° to 42°F, and they will keep for several months until used or forced to produce chicons.