Chicory and Raddichio
The wild form of this Mediterranean native is a perennial Western roadside weed with pretty, 2–4-ft.-tall, sky blue summer flowers. Different strains of it are grown for three purposes: for salad greens (small-rooted red- or green-leafed varieties); for roots to make a coffee substitute (large-rooted varieties); and for Belgian or French endive (‘Witloof’ chicory). For the standard salad green called endive, see Endive.
“Radicchio” is the name given to red-leafed chicories grown for salads. ‘Indigo’, ‘Palla Rossa’, and ‘Red Treviso’ are good varieties. Radicchio makes lettucelike heads that color to a deep rosy red as weather grows cold in fall or winter; its slight bitterness lessens as its color deepens. Harvest after heads form.
Among green-leafed varieties, try ‘Catalogna’ and ‘Red Rib’ for dandelion-leafed varieties, or the heirloom ‘Crystal Hat’, whose leaves grow like romaine lettuce. Pick tender young leaves as needed.
For roots to make a coffee substitute, ‘Magdeburgh’ (‘Cicoria Siciliana’) is a good choice.
To grow Belgian or French endive, try ‘Witloof Bruxelles’ or ‘Totem’. Harvest after new growth appears.
Sow all types 1/4–1/2 in. deep, 2–3 in. apart, in rows spaced 18 in. apart. Green-leafed types and root types: Sow starting in early spring (up to early summer where summers are not too hot). In areas with mild winters, you can also plant in mid- to late summer for fall and winter harvest (or, in the desert, in fall for winter harvest). Red-leafed types: Sow in mid- to late summer to mature in cool autumn months, though variety ‘Giulio’ can be sown in spring to harvest in summer. Belgian endive: Sow seeds in spring or early summer; plants will mature by fall. In winter, trim the greens to an inch of stem; then dig the roots, bury them diagonally in moist sand, and set in a dark, cool room until pale, tender new growth has been forced.
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