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Chicory

UK Garden Centre - Information about Chicory

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All the chicories can be used to make a crisp winter salad, but they are not to everyone’s taste. The admirers find them refreshing and tart – the haters find them bitter. There are two basic types to choose from. The forcing chicories are the more popular, producing plump leafy heads (‘chicons’) from roots kept in the dark during the winter months. The usual colour is white, but you can force a red variety to produce the white and maroon leaves served as radicchio in Continental salads. The other chicories are the non-forcing ones which do not require blanching – they produce large lettuce-like heads which are ready for harvesting in autumn.

Seed facts
Expected germination time: 7-14 days
Approximate number per ounce: 20,000
Expected yield from a 10ft double row: 6lb (3kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 5 years.
Approximate time between sowing and cutting: 18-30 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Non-forcing varieties are easy – forcing varieties call for more work.

Soil facts
· Chicory is not fussy about soil type, but it does need a sunny site.
· Dig the soil in autumn or winter and incorporate compost if the soil is short of humus. Prepare the seed bed a few days before the sowing – rake a general-purpose fertilizer into the surface.

Seed sowing
Sow very thinly ½ in (1cm) deep in rows 12in (30cm) apart and cover with soil.

Calendar
Sowing time: Forcing varieties – May to mid June; Non-forcing varieties – June to mid July.
Cutting time: Forcing varieties: December to March (sometimes also April); Non-forcing varieties – mid October to December (can extend from the beginning of October to the end of February).

Looking after the crop
· Hoe to keep down weeds – water when the weather is dry. Thin the seedlings to 6in (15cm) (forcing varieties) or 12in (30cm) (non-forcing varieties) apart.
· Forcing varieties: Lift parsnip-like roots in November. Discard ones which are fanged or less than 1in (2.5cm) across at the crown. Cut back leaves to 1in (2.5cm) above the crown – cut back roots to a length of 6in (15cm). Pack them horizontally in a box of sand in a cool shed – keep until required. Force a few at a time between November and March. Plant 5 in a 9in (23cm) pot – surround each root with moist peat or compost, leaving the crown exposed. Cover the pot with an empty larger one – block up drainage holes to prevent the entry of light. Keep at 50-60°F (10-15°C) to promote chicon formation.

Harvesting
· Forcing varieties: The chicons are ready when they are about 6in (15cm) high – this will take 3-4 weeks from the start of forcing. Cut just above the level of the crown. Water the compost and replace the cover – smaller, secondary chicons will then be produced.
· Non-forcing varieties: Cut heads in late autumn – use immediately or store in a cool shed for later use. Provide some frost protection over plants if they are not to be cut until the winter.

Varieties
Witloof: The traditional forcing variety, sometimes called Belgian or Brussels Chicory. Good and reliable, but really needs forcing under an 8in (20cm) peat or soil layer to keep chicons tightly folded.
Normato: A modern forcing variety which doesn’t need a soil layer when forcing.
Sugar Loaf: Pain de Sucre in some catalogues – the traditional non-forcing variety.
Crystal Head: One of the modern non-forcing varieties – others include Snowflake and Winter Fare. These new ones are hardier than Sugar Loaf.
Rossa De Verona: A red-leaved chicory which you can treat as a forcing or non-forcing variety.

Troubles
Soil pests


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