Chicory

Mar / Apr, May / Jun
May / Jun, Jul / Aug, Sep / Oct
Indoors | Outdoors

Why Grow It

A bitter leaved, tangy salad plant, chicory adds a nice texture to winter salads.  There are three types: red chicory, often known as radicchio or Italian chicory; forcing chicory, which is ‘forced’ by depriving the plants of light to produce tender, sweet white growths called chicons (which are a lot like tender cos lettuce); and sugarloaf chicory, which is like lettuce.

Chicory can be grown in a raised bed or open ground, or even in a pot – so it’s ideal for the balcony grower. You can grow them as baby leaves or let them grow on to produce a compact head. Forcing chicory can often be the only way of having tender young salad leaves in a very cold climate, as you are forcing them indoors in pots – and the little chicons are a delicacy.

  • Chicory can be sown direct or in module trays for transplanting.
  • Sow indoors from March to July and outside from April to July.
  • Sow a single seed in each module and lightly cover with compost.
  • Sow outdoors thinly at 1cm deep in rows 25cm apart – sowing every two to three weeks will give you chicory throughout the summer.
  • Transplant module-grown seedlings when they are 10-12cm tall. Space 20cm apart in rows 25cm apart.
  • Thin direct sowings to the same spacing – thinnings can be used for salads, but may be too bitter for some.
  • Make sure the soil doesn’t dry out, particularly after transplanting.
  • You can start harvesting the baby leaves as soon as they are ready.
  • Or leave to form a compact head – it will feel firm and plump to touch when it’s ready. Cut mature heads when ready.
  • Dig up chicon roots in the autumn and transplant into containers. Place containers somewhere warm, in the dark and tender chicons will form over the winter – these can be cut off and eaten, and the process can then be repeated for spring.
  • Witloof de Brussels
  • Red Treviso
  • Pallo Rossa
  • Chicory is fairly trouble free, but slugs and leaf rots can be a problem.
  • Make sure the plants are grown at the recommended spacing and keep the area slug free.
  • Keep the soil evenly moist – plants that are stressed from lack of water produce bitter leaves
  • The dried tap root of chicory can be ground and used as a substitute for coffee.