Gardening With Chicory Plants

Gardening With Chicory Plants

Chicory plant (Cichorium intybus) is an herbaceous biennial that is not native to the United States but has made itself at home. Widely grown in Europe for its root, chicory is a Mediterranean herb used as a coffee filler or substitute. In North America, this plant, also known as blue-sailors, grows wild. It is a blue-flowered herb with a long white root. The leaves of the plant are known as endive, and are found in salads, as either a vegetable or a green. Gardening with chicory plants, seeds can be started indoors five to six weeks before they are moved outdoors. In warm climates, sowing outdoors or transplanting occurs September through March. Gardening with chicory in cooler climates should be done three to four weeks before the danger of frost has passed. Sow chicory seeds 6 to 10 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. You can always thin the plants if they crowd each other but close planting discourages weeds. The seeds are planted ¼ inch deep and thinning is done when the plants have three to four true leaves. You can also sow a crop for fall harvest if you choose a variety that has an early maturation date.

Gardening with chicory seed 75 to 85 days before anticipated harvest will ensure a late crop. Chicory herb plants that are to be forced for blanched leaves will need to have the roots dug up before the first frost. Cut the leaves to 1 inch and store the roots for three to seven weeks in the refrigerator before forcing. Plant the roots individually after chilling to force the leaves to grow in a tight, blanched head.

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