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Organic Gardening:

How to grow organic Endive


Endive is a tasty and attractive salad vegetable


Cichorium endivia

Family: Compositae (Group 4)

A popular salad vegetable on the Continent, there are two types: curly endive (chicorée frisée), which is more heat-resistant, and Batavian or broad leaved (escarole); there are also intermediate hybrids. Endive is traditionally cultivated as an Autumn or early Winter crop. If grown under cover in a cold greenhouse, cropping can continue into Spring. In some places endive is called chicory (which is a different crop).


Endive tolerates a wide range of soil types, Autumn crops, however, should be grown on a light, well drained soil to minimise the risk of rotting in wet weather. Soil pH should be around 7. An open position is needed for maincrops; the summer crop can tolerate light shade.

Recommended cultivars

Curled: Fine Maraicher, Ione (early and summer sowings), Pancaliere (early and summer), Ruffec Green (hardy), Wallone (hardy)
Broad leaved: Golda (any sowings), Cornet Bordeaux (hardy), Full Heart Italian (hardy)


Sow in situ and thin, or in seed trays or modules and transplant (this is the best method for early spring sowings). Spacing varies from 25-37cm (10-15") each way depending on cultivar. Plants take about 3 months to reach maturity.

Sow in April indoors at 68ª F (20ª C) in seed trays or modules, using early varieties. Do not allow temperature to fall below 40ª F for more than 20 days or plants will bolt. Harden off and plant out under cloches or crop covers. Make a further sowing indoors in May. The main sowing for autumn cropping should be made outdoors in June or July (any type). Sow a broad leaved or hardy curled cultivar in a cold greenhouse in August.


Plants are blanched when nearing maturity, about 3 months after sowing. The leaves must be dry before blanching or the plants will rot. If necessary cover them with cloches for a couple of days beforehand to dry them. Blanch a few plants at a time in succession, as they will not stand long after blanching without deteriorating.

To blanch whole plants, cover with a bucket or upturned flower pot with the drainage hole blocked. Alternatively, blanch the heart by placing a large dinner plate or slate over the plant. Plants can also be partially blanched by tying the leaves together above the plant. Take precautions against slugs.

Traditionally, endive was lifted before heavy frost and replanted in a cold frame, under greenhouse staging or in boxes, excluding light. It is unnecessary to trim back the leaves.

Pests and diseases

Endive is susceptible to the same pests and diseases as lettuce, but may not be attacked. Slugs, and sometimes leaf aphids can be problems.

If you're interested in healthy food, you may also be interested in our sister site, The Health Site, Your Online Health Channel.

Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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