A popular feature of
the Continental but not the English salad. The
French housewife buys endive as chicorée
frisée – to make it even more confusing
our plump-headed chicory is called endive on the
other side of the Channel! Endive has a much more
distinctive taste than lettuce and has the blessing
of being available between January and March from
the garden. By sowing at monthly intervals you
can have heads for six months or more during the
year, but you will always have to blanch them
before cutting in order to remove much of the
bitterness. The curly-leaved varieties are sown
in spring and summer for their finely divided
frizzy leaves in summer and autumn. The broad-leaved
sorts are hardier – cloche-covered heads
will survive the winter.
Expected germination time: 3-7 days
Approximate number per ounce: 20,000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 10-15 heads
Life expectancy of stored seed: 5 years.
Approximate time between sowing and cutting: 15-20
Ease of cultivation: Not easy – good soil,
regular watering and blanching required.
· Good soil is needed – endive is
not happy in sticky clay. Pick a sunny spot for
summer- and autumn-sown crops – a semi-shady
site is suitable for spring-sown endive.
· Dig in autumn – incorporate manure
or compost if the soil is short of humus. About
a week before planting apply a general-purpose
· Sow seed thinly ½ in (1cm) deep
in rows 12in (30cm) apart, and cover with fine
soil firm down the surface after sowing.
· Sow curly-leaved varieties in March –
August or broad-leaved varieties in July –
September for late autumn and winter use.
Sowing time: Mid April to the end of August; can
extend from late March to early September.
Cutting time: September to February; can include
late August and March to mid April.
Looking after the crop
· Thin the seedlings as soon as the first
true leaves appear. Continue thinning at intervals
until the plants are 9in (23cm) (curly-leaved
varieties) or 12in (30cm) (broad-leaved varieties)
· Hoe regularly and feed occasionally with
a liquid fertilizer. It is essential to water
thoroughly in dry weather – plants will
run to seed if you fail to do so.
· Begin the blanching operation about 12
weeks after sowing. Choose a few plants, as required,
and make sure the leaves are dry. Loosely tie
up the leaves with raffia and cover with a plastic
flowering pot. Block the drainage holes to exclude
light. The heads will be ready in 3 weeks (summer)
or 5 weeks (winter).
· Sever the head with a sharp knife when
the leaves have turned creamy white.
Batavian Green: The most popular broad-leaved
Winter Lettuce-Leaved: You will find this variety
recommended in some textbooks, but you will have
to search to find a stockist.
Green Curled: The basic type of curly-leaved endive.
Moss Curled: Another variety, but you will find
it impossible to distinguish from the Green Curled.
As you would expect from the name, the leaves
are finely divided.