Growing Chicory

July 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Chicory is a multi-use plant, providing a crop of leaves from early summer to mid-autumn.

The young leaves can be used in salads, and the root can also be boiled and eaten like a vegetable (Belgian endive).

Lifting and storing the roots in the dark produces chicons which will provide a delicacy in the winter months.

At many points through history, coffee has become unavailable or too costly, and people have often turned to roasted chicory as a substitute. The roots are baked then ground mixed in a 40:60 ratio with coffee. Chicory brew makes for an intriguing hot beverage.

And chicory is very easy to grow!

Dark start

Chicory loves a dark start Chicory can be sown from mid spring until late summer. I am sowing seed under cover.

Wait for the seedlings to sprout, and thin the seedlings so that they are no more than 20 cm apart. Germination time for a chicory plant is anywhere from one to three weeks.

When the seedlings are 5 cm high they can be transplanted to their final position in the garden. Avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible.

Maintenance

Chicory brings some extremely good news on this front. It hardly needs care or maintenance once the seedlings have established. Full sun, average to poor soil, but can not tolerate heavy moisture. In the early stages, water if conditions become dry. Thereafter the plants will look after themselves. Their long tap roots will search out water in all but the driest of conditions. Chicory will smother most weeds. Yowsa!

Harvesting

Leaves in early spring. The leaves are tasty in their smallest form ~ they get more bitter as they age. Flowers anytime they are fully opened. Root harvesting is best in fall, after four months of transplanting the seedlings, but can be harvested anytime before hard freezing occurs.

Forcing Chicons

Remove the foliage ~ by cutting the root on a diagonal, 1 to 2 inches above the crown. After they are exposed to cold plant the roots in a fine soil, such as moist sand.

When in pots, place a pot over them making sure any holes are covered so no sunlight can touch the plant. Alternatively, stack the roots vertically in a frame in a temperature-controlled dark shed, with soil filling the spaces between them, but not covering the crowns.

In both cases the plants are forced to grow a new head. Harvest these tender little leaves after about six weeks. These shoots are valued for their mild flavor and soft texture.

Remedies

Drinks made from chicory and chicon cleanses liver, spleen and kidneys, and in general stimulates digestion.

Recipes

The chicory root can be eaten as vegetable. The flowers are edible, for salads and freezing in ice cubes for a lovely addition to iced tea. Add a bite to your sandwich!

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