Endives have an ancient history having been known to have been cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians and other civilisations in the Near East. They have been commonly cultivated in southern Europe, but it is only in recent years that they have been grown in the UK.
Even though Endives are annual plants, they are frequently confused with Chicory which is a perennial plant. Both are used as salad plants and both have a slightly bitter taste. Their inclusion in salads brings a variation in tastes to salads. Endives are more hardy than lettuce and can prolong the salad season. Endives also are less likely to bolt in hot dry weather and less prone to disease than lettuce.
There are two types of Endive available:-
Batavian endive, also known as Escarole, is a fairly hardy semi-upright plant with broad wavy leaves, and is suitable for Winter cropping, especially with some cloche protection.
Curly Endive on the other hand is a more flat growing plant with frilly or even finely cut
leaves and suitable for Summer cropping, though it can survive in a mild Winter with cloche protection.
The seed for both types should be sown in the spring for Summer and Autumn cropping. For Winter cropping, the seed of the Batavian endive should be sown in late Summer.
In all cases sow the seed in drills 1 cm deep with the rows some 35 cm apart. Thin the seedlings out to 25 cm apart. Remember to keep the seed bed well watered and apply a slug and snail control.
Blanching of individual plants is possible if you want to reduce the bitterness. Place an upturned clay flowerpot over an individual plant while it is dry, for a few days. Watch out for slug attack if you do this.
When harvesting, take individual leaves or cut off the head of the plant leaving the roots. The roots should then re-sprout more leaves.
Storage. The leaves should be used fresh if possible, though they should keep for a few days in the fridge crispator.
Pests and diseases. Apart from slugs and snails, there are few problems.
Suggested varieties of Curly leaved endives.
Suggested varieties of Batavian or broad leaved varieties.
RADICCIO (leaf or Italian chicory)
This is a perennial where there is a mild climate, but best grown as an annual in the UK. The leaves have a bitter and spicy taste and when used and mixed with lettuce, will provide a more interesting taste experience.
Cultivation is the same as for endive.
Radiccio di Verona. Striking red coloured leaves.