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Belgian Endive

Also known as Witloof Chicory, Belgian Endive has a bit of a bite to it, a great crunchy texture and pale green leaves with white-yellow ribs. Growing best in a deeply dug, enriched bed, the roots are dug up after about 120 days, replanted in a sandy medium and placed in absolute darkness for a month. Sprouting from the crowns of the dug roots, the 'chicons' have a mild flavor and are prized in European cuisine. Deer resistant.

Average seed life: 2 years.

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Gardening Tips

Forcing Chicons
This blanched delicacy needs to be grown similar to carrots until fall, and then it is dug up and forced in pots in darkness. Sow directly in deeply dug, fairly fertile, sandy and well-draining beds, 2 weeks before last frost. Plant ¼" deep, tamp down lightly and water finely. Thin seedlings 4 to 6 inches apart and keep well weeded until plants are established, water in drought conditions and let the plants get nipped by frost in the fall. After a few frosts and before the soil freezes, dig up all roots, keeping all that are at least 1 inch in diameter, and cut off all but 1 inch of the leafy tops. Trim side roots and shorten the main root to at least 8 inches and replant roots standing up into deep pots or buckets of dry soil, sand, or hardwood sawdust. Don’t water until ready to force and keep in a cold, dark place. When ready to force, bring plants into a cool room between 50 and 65 degrees F, water plants lightly and cover with another pot upside down and cover all with a black plastic bag. No light should reach the plants; so the sprouts or "chicons" will remain creamy white and mild flavored. The "chicons" may need to be watered while forming and should form within 30 days. This process can be repeated until all the roots are gone or the cold storage area becomes too warm and the roots start to sprout, at that time force the rest. If untreated roots start to sprout, begin blanching ASAP.