How to Grow Chicory – A Guide to Growing Chicory
Chicory is frequently used in an autumn or winter salad. It is an acquired taste; some people find it refreshingly tart, others find it too bitter.
There are two main types: forcing (more popular and are said to taste better), and non-forcing (do not require blanching and are therefore easier to grow).
Recommended Varieties of Chicory
- Witloof F1 is the standard green variety for forcing (sometimes called Belgian or Brussels Chicory)
- Palla Rossa is a non-hardy variety which turns red as the temperature drops and which can either be forced or non-forced
Pests and Problems of Chicory
- Slugs and snails
- Cutworms can occasionally cause a problem
Sowing & Growing Chicory
- Chicory needs a sunny site
- Rake a general-purpose fertiliser into the seed bed a few days before sowing
- Forcing varieties: sow very thinly, at a depth of 2-3 cm, in rows 30 cm apart, in May-July. When plants are becoming established, thin to 30cm apart.
- Non-forcing varieties: as for forcing varieties, but sow in May-June and thin to 15cm apart.
- Forced varieties of chicory can also be grown in deep pots with drainage holes (do not make holes in the lid).
Harvesting, Eating & Storing Chicory
- Approximate time from sowing to harvesting = 18-30 weeks
- Non-forcing varieties: harvest on demand during November – December. They will store for a short while in a dark, cool (but frost-free) place.
- Forcing varieties: lift the roots in November, and select plants with undamaged, unforked roots with a diameter of 2-5 cm across the top. Cut the foliage back to within 2.5cm of the top of the root, and trim the length of the root back to 15-20cm. Store horizontally in damp sand in e.g. a cool shed.
When ready to produce the new young shoots to eat (these are called chicons), place up to 5 roots in a pot of 25cm diameter filled with damp multi-purpose compost, leaving the crowns just visible above the soil. Cover to exclude light (e.g. another pot with drainage holes covered) and grow on in warmth at a temperature of at least 10-13°C. A chicon should grow from each root within a few weeks.
- Not suitable for cooking or freezing.
- To force chicory outdoors, cover the trimmed roots with soil 20cm deep. Cover with cloches, straw or similar, and the chicons should appear in early spring.