When Do You Sow Witloof Chicory aka French Endive?

Witloof Chicory, also called succory and French endive and sometimes erroneously called endive in food markets, looks like a corpulent, pallid cigar.

But it commands a very high price (and gets it) for it is highly prized by the epicure.

Growing Witloof ChicoryPin

The young shoot of Cichorium Intybus is forced into growth during the winter from roots grown the preceding year.

It is an easy crop to grow. Seeds are sown in the spring in shallow drills that are 2 feet apart.

Later, the seedlings are thinned to stand from 3” to 6” inches apart.

Cutting Witloof Chicory Roots

In late fall or early winter, the roots of Witloof Chicory are dug up and prepared for forcing by cutting them to a uniform length of 6” or 8” inches and trimming off the leaves 1” inch above the crown.

These roots are then planted, almost touching each other, in small boxes at least 8” inches deep.

To obtain the tight cigar-shaped heads, 6” inches of sand, sawdust, or sandy soil must be placed over the roots when brought to a temperature of 50° to 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

If the box is not deep enough, you can do as I did and tack a cardboard carton to the box to give it the necessary depth.

My first box was brought into the cellar on November 22, and it started producing on December 1.

More roots, brought in December 15, were produced by January 1, and at the time of writing (early February), there are still a few laggard shoots that could be harvested.

These extra shoots were partly produced because, instead of cutting just below the crown (as the commercial growers do), I cut the shoot just above.

Then the growing point is uninjured and secondary shoots can be produced.

Witloof Chicory Varieties

Chicory is not everyone’s cup of tea; the usually present bitterness is too much for some palates.

The variety known as Witloof (or Witloef) is used for forcing.

It is a winter-hardy perennial, and, if left in the ground, the leafy shoots which come tip in the spring may be cut and used as greens.

The variety, Magdeburg, provides the roots which, when dried, roasted, and ground, are used as a substitute for, or adulterant of, coffee.

Endive “Cichorium Endivia”

Endive (Cichorium endivia), which is sometimes mistakenly called chicory, is a frost-resistant annual or biennial, growing best during cool weather.

It is therefore planted either in later summer or in early spring.

Though a native of Europe, endive has become widely naturalized in North America. 

There are two major forms of this species: Batavian (escarole) and curled varieties in which the leaves are much laciniated.