Cichorium - Chicory, Endive, Escarole, Radicchio, Witloof
Chicory & Radicchio (C. intybus) - Cichorium intybus is commonly known as Chicory. It is grown for its leafy shoots known as Witloof. This plant resembles Cos or Romaine Lettuce in its growth, being upright in nature. The heads are erect, loosely wrapped, and dark green. The foliage has a slightly bitter taste. Italian Chicory has deeply notched leaves and long stems. Leaf Chicory is more popular in Europe than in the U.S.; a variety is cultivated for the creamy white buds known as Belgian Endive or Witloof Chicory. There is even a variety (Magdeburg) grown for its roots, which are roasted and ground as a coffee additive. Chicory is a hardy perennial; if your let it live over winter, it will shoot up tall stems of pretty light blue flowers in the summer. Radicchio is a variety of Leaf Chicory that resembles a small red cabbage. It forms a compact head of dark red or magenta leaves, which are veined in white. The size ranges from a large Radish to a large Grapefruit. If this plant is left over winter, it will produce spikes of beautiful, bright blue flowers in the summer just as the Leaf Chicory.
Escarole or Curly Endive (C. endiva) - C. endiva is another vegetable commonly known as Escarole or Curly Endive. They are generally the same thing, but Endive has cut and curled foliage and Escarole has smooth, wide leaves. Restaurants often use Endive to line salad bowls or mix with lettuce. The leaves are chewier and more substantial than those of lettuce.
Chicory & Radicchio - These vegetables are easy to cultivate. Soil that has been dug deeply and is without lumps or fresh manure is fine. The best soil, however, is one that was manured for a previous crop such as Leeks or Celery. Spring planted Chicory is ready to eat just before hard frost in the autumn, at which time it has only a slightly bitter taste. Chicory planted in late summer is ready to eat by late winter or early spring. Radicchio needs a long, cool growing season. It matures in late fall in northern climates and into the winter and early spring in warmer areas. It may send up very long, fuzzy, dark green leaves early in its growing cycle. To ensure a crop of Radicchio, cut the plant to the ground in early fall so that the dark red heads can form.
Endive or Escarole - Spring planted Endive or Escarole does well only where summers are pretty cool. It shouldn't be planted too early because a long period of cold weather can trigger seedlings to bolt and flower too soon. If they are subjected to hot weather before they are large enough to harvest, they may take on a pungent taste. In the North, plant in midsummer and in the Deep South and warm West, plant in early autumn. They should be set 12 inches apart. In warm soil the plants get a good start and grow quickly, maturing during cool fall or winter weather. Fall Endive is a nice change from lettuce. Blanching is a 2 to 3 week process that turns their dark green color into a pretty creamy white and reduces bitterness. If you only have a few plants, cover them with inverted bushel baskets. Use a temporary plywood A-frame to cover a row of several plants. Wait until the plants are dry to cover them, since moisture collected in the heads may cause them to rot. When it comes time to harvest, the whole plant is taken. The inner leaves are best for salads; the outer leaves, together with the plants left unblanched, can be cooked with other fall greens. This perennial often tries to come back after it has been cut, but the quality isn't good. Experienced gardeners replant every year.
Chicory & Radicchio - Seeds of Chicory should be planted 6 to 12 inches apart in the garden in mid-spring in the North and late summer in the Deep South. Radicchio seeds are sown 8 to 10 inches apart in mid-spring in the North and in late summer in the Deep South.
Endive or Escarole - Seeds should be planted in well-drained soil that has had thoroughly decayed manure added.
VARIETIES: Chicory (C. intybus) - Varieties include: Sugarhat and Catalogna (an Italian variety), Belgian Endive, Witloof Chicory, Magdeburg.
Radicchio - Rossa di Treviso and Rossa de Verona are recommended; Giulio and Augusto can be planted in mid- to late summer for a late fall crop except in short-season climates.
Curly Endive (C. endiva) - Grossr-Pomant Seule, Salad King, Green Curled.
Escarole (C. endiva) - Nufema (early), Batavian Full Heart.
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