There are three types of chicory: forcing types like ‘Witloof’ grown for their plump leafy heads or ‘chicons’ when blanched; red chicory or radicchio which responds to change in day length by turning red; finally non-forcing or sugar loaf types that produce large hearted lettuce-like heads (heading forms) for autumn harvest. Chicory is used as a bitter flavouring to autumn and spring salads – add tomatoes or sweet dressing to reduce bitterness.

Chicory

Month by month

Sow

Cultivars for forcing are sown in May and June; non-forcing varieties in June and July. For mini leaves, non-forcing types can be sown at any time in a glasshouse from late winter in until early auutmn.

Sow thinly 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart; for mini leaves every 5cm (2in).

Grow

Chicory prefers an open, sunny site but summer crops and mini leaves will tolerate some shade, soil should be fertile and free draining.

Thin seedlings of forcing types to 15cm (6in) apart, thin non-forcing ones to 30cm (12in), and 5cm for mini leaves.

Water thoroughly in dry weather and give plants in containers a general liquid feed fortnightly in summer.

Lift the roots of forcing varieties in November, discard any less than 2.5cm (1in) across at the crown. Cut back leaves to 2.5cm (1in) above the crown.

Pack roots horizontally in sand in a cool shed until required. Force a few at a time by planting five in a 25cm (10in) pot of moist compost, leaving the crown exposed.

Cover with a black polythene bag (or pot with drainage holes covered to exclude the light) and keep at 10-15°C (50-59°F) to produce the ‘chicons’.

Start blanching radicchio about 12 weeks after sowing. Make sure the leaves are dry, and loosely tie together. Cover with a black plastic pot with the drainage holes covered until the leaves blanch. Most types form good heads without any need to tie or blanch – the outer leaves blanch the inner ones.

Common problems

Rotting: Leaves rot in damp conditions or when plants are grown under cover.

Remedy: Remove damaged leaves, and improve ventilation under cover.

Slugs and snails
Slugs and snails

These feed on the young seedlings and you'll see the tell tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves.

Remedy

There are many ways to control slugs and snails, including beer traps, sawdust or eggshell barriers, copper tape and biocontrols.

More info on Slugs and snails

Harvesting

Non-forcing types: cut heads from late summer until October; protect plants overwintered outdoors with cloches or fleece.

Forcing: ‘chicons’ are ready to harvest when 15cm (6in) high, after around four weeks.

Varieties

'Leonardo' AGM :A Radicchio rosso variety. Very productive for summer/autumn cropping. Heads develop an attractive red colour under cooler temperatures.

‘Palla Rossa’ AGM:Radicchio - Medium to large heads; well-filled red hearts; fairly uniform. Does not bolt.

‘Pan di Zucchero’ AGM:Sugar-loaf  - Uniform medium to large plants with dark green outer leaves. Hearts blanch well.

‘Witloof Zoom’:An excellent 'forcing' variety that produces delicious chicons when the leaves are removed and forced in the autumn.

Buy mixed salad leaves

Get involved

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