Endives and chicory are attractive salad plants that are now found in many pre-prepared supermarket salad bags. They are relatively hardy and easy to grow. Some varieties provide a good winter and early spring crop if protected from the worst of the weather by a cloche, cold frame, unheated greenhouse or polytunnel.
In August last year in the Edible Garden we sowed endive ‘Pancalieri’ and chicory ‘Palla Rossa’ into modules. We planted them into the polytunnel in October. They all survived the winter and are now producing a flush of new growth ready to harvest.
Endives and chicory are characterised by slightly bitter flavours. This can be softened by ‘blanching’ the leaves. This means depriving the plant of light while it grows. About 10 days before harvest tie up the leaves with twine or cover with a pot. The plant will become pale and milder in flavour.
The leaves must be dry when you do this otherwise they will rot. Watch out for slugs as they love hiding out amongst the leaves.