Chicory is a head chicory very famous for its uses in the kitchen, characterized by a marked bitter, aromatic and savory flavor, thanks to which it lends itself to several interesting recipes. It is a vegetable which can be used in winter, if late varieties are planted, and can give great satisfaction to the grower.
Chicory root is also harvested with the head: the upper part of the taproot is eaten and is a reputable part of the plant, especially if blanched in the right way.
The varieties of chicory heads are typically Italian, apart from the Belgian salad, and chicory comes in particular from Veneto: Chioggia, Treviso, Verona, Castelfranco are the places that give their name to the most cultivated cultivars of this salad head.
Early varieties of chicory heads are harvested in the fall, while late salads have to go through the blanching operation and are ready in winter. There are also varieties of chicory from which only the leaves are harvested, with a faster growth cycle: these are cut chicory.
Seeds and grafts
Ideal climate and terrain. Chicory is a hardy plant, it prefers temperate climates but resists cold well. There are several varieties, the late ones can withstand even short frosts, normally the development of the plant stops below 5 degrees. Chicory does not resist the combined action of freezing and thawing also because of their conformation: in the structure of the plume, the outer part freezes first then the center while during the thaw, conversely, the outer part thaws , while the heart often remains frozen. At ground level, these endives like a draining soil rich in organic matter.
Sow. Chicory planting takes place at the end of May and can continue throughout July. It can be sown in the ground or even in a nursery and then transplanted into the garden. Chicory seedlings should be placed at a distance of 35 cm; they can be arranged in staggered rows (i.e. in alternating “zigzags”) to maintain a greater distance with the same space. Treviso chicory can also be placed at a shorter distance, as it grows upwards and not sideways.
Transplantation . Plants grown in a nursery or purchased must be transplanted when they exceed 6/8 cm, to put them directly in the garden. Chicory is usually transplanted with bare roots, considering whether part of the root and part of the leaf should be cut off.
Irrigation. Salads require a constant presence of water in the soil, obviously without stagnation, so it is good to water the endive beds in the garden often.
Partial cut of the leaves. It can be useful when the seedling is young (10 cm in height) to cut some leaves, preventing them from resting on the ground, facilitating the rotting of the plant.
Winter. If Trevisa chicory is left in the garden, it will dry out and almost disappear when frost comes. It will reappear with new shoots in the spring, in this case already tender and ready to eat.
Diseases of chicory . The diseases that can damage our chicory crop are powdery mildew or white disease, which must be treated with sulphur, leaf rot, sclerotinia which causes neck rot, erwinia carotóvora which causes root rot . It may be helpful to focus specifically on the most common chicory diseases.
Vermin. The radicchio fears pesticides and the moth, whose larvae can eat lettuce leaves, is fought with Bacillus thuringiensis, also harmful to snails for which we can put beer traps.
Whitening . Late salads are to be forced, the bleaching of chicory is explained in a dedicated article: three methods to force the region of Treviso.
Collection . Chicory is harvested by cutting off the whole head, which is cut just below the basal leaves, often the outer leaves are wilted or damaged and removed to present a fresh and tempting salad. Early varieties are harvested from the end of September, while late varieties are forced. In cooking, chicory is mainly eaten cooked, unlike many other salads, with its particular flavor it has several uses, the most famous of which is chicory risotto.
Varieties of chicory
The varieties of chicory are really numerous, they differ in taste but also in the growth cycle, in fact there are plants which are more resistant to frost with a late cycle and others which require milder climates and are precocious. .
red radicchio . The most famous of the radicchios is probably the red radicchio from Chioggia, which comes in different varieties, from the early variety (harvested in less than two months) to the late variety which stays in the field for 5 months and is harvested like a winter). The Treviso red radicchio, on the other hand, with its elongated head, is the one usually blanched as seen above. Then there are the red radicchios from Verona and Gorizia, very similar to those from Chioggia.
variegated roots . These are vegetables that form nurseries with small, compact clumps, usually curly, with mottled colors. We remember in this family the pink chicory from Veneto, the speckled chicory from Lusia, the variegated chicory from Chioggia and the variegated chicory from Castelfranco. Variegated chicory does not need to be forced and is therefore easier to grow than Treviso chicory. The red variegated Chioggia initially develops large leaves which later form a ball first green then red, that of Lusia is similar in behavior but more tender. The Castelfranco salad, on the other hand, must be cut in August and covered with straw so that it takes less light; in the cold, its head will turn ivory and red, then the leaves on the head can be shaped pink to give an attractive appearance to the harvested salad.