How to Grow Chicory


The way you go about growing chicory will depend on whether you plan on using its root, grown as a coffee alternative, or its leaf, which is used in salads. To harvest the root, simply dig it up once the plant is grown. The leaf can be picked and eaten at the end of the summer, blanched to minimize bitterness, or forced and enjoyed during the winter months.

Planting Chicory

  • Prepare the soil. Chicory does best in well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients. However, chicory will also grow in other soils if they are enriched with plenty of manure and organic fertilizers.

  • Sow the chicory seeds 8 inches to 1 foot apart, and 1 inch deep. Do this early, in late spring to early summer, about a month after the last frost.

  • Wait for your crop to sprout, and thin the seedlings so that they are no more than 9 inches apart. Germination time for a chicory plant is anywhere from one to three weeks.

  • Keep your sprouts free of weeds and water well. If you would like to harvest your plant and use the root, you may do so after four months. The leaf may also be picked from the garden and used in a fresh salad.

Forcing Chicory Shoots

  • Prepare pots for planting your chicory roots. These should be filled with a fine soil, such as sand, and stored in a cool, temperature-controlled shed.

  • Cut the root on a diagonal, 1 to 2 inches above the crown.

  • Plant the trimmed roots so that the crown is 1 to 2 inches above the top of the soil.

  • Place another upturned pot over the top of the root. Block the pot's holes to stop sunlight from touching the plant.

  • Harvest the tender little leaves after about six weeks. These shoots are valued for their mild flavor and soft texture.

Tips & Warnings

  • Chicory shoots get more bitter the longer they are left to grow. The darker the chicory leaf, the more bitter the taste.
  • To blanch the shoots while they are still in the ground, place an upturned flower pot over the plant a few weeks before you are ready to harvest. Make sure the holes of the pot are covered to keep out the sun.
  • If it starts to get cold before your chicory turns red, you can cover the plants with a burlap cloth to keep them alive for a while longer.

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