There are two types of endive: the upright Batavian or escarole with large broad leaves; and the curly or fringed frisee with a rosette of delicately serrated leaves. Curled varieties are used for summer cropping, broad-leaved types are robust and are useful for winter cropping. The outer leaves can be cooked as greens.

endive

Month by month

Sow

Although the minimum soil temperature for germination is 15°C (59°F), endive germinates best at 20-22°C (68-72°F).

Sow early crops under glass in pots and modules, and transplant. Plants tend to bolt if temperatures fall below 5C (41°F) for too long, but bolt-resistant cultivars are often successful for early sowings. Sow thinly from April to August, 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 23-38cm (9-13in) apart within the rows.

Sow from mid to late August for winter crops, transplant and grow in glasshouse or use cloches from October- November.

Sow from February to October for ‘cut and come again’ seedlings, if the soil is warm enough, or under glass or horticultural fleece, sowing every three weeks. Sow ‘cut and come again’ crops in broad drills or containers.

Grow

Soils should be light, rich and free draining, but any soil can be used as long as it is not waterlogged. Dry soil can cause ‘bolting’ (running to seed), so keep the soil moist.

Higher temperatures encourage bitterness, though curled types are heat tolerant. Water thoroughly before the onset of dry weather, mulch and keep weed free. Liquid feed fortnightly in summer with a general fertiliser.

Blanch endive about 12 weeks after sowing when the heads have matured. Make sure the leaves are dry (damp leaves are likely to rot) and tie them loosely together with raffia or soft string. Alternatively, place a tile, piece of cardboard or a dinner plate over the centre of the plant, or cover with a bucket or a black plastic pot with the drainage holes covered.

Blanching takes about 10-14 days, but in cooler autumn weather may take longer. Blanch a few at a time, as plants rapidly deteriorate afterwards (especially in warm or rainy weather).

‘Cut and come again’ crops can be harvested after about five weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they run to seed.

Common problems

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

Aphids
Aphids

Look for colonies of greenfly on the soft shoot tips of plants or on leaves. They suck sap and excrete sticky honeydew, encouraging the growth of black sooty moulds.

Remedy

Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies or use biological control in the greenhouse.

More info on Aphids

Harvesting

Sever the head with a sharp knife when the leaves are creamy white.

Harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors.

Varieties

‘Despa’ AGM:An attractive frisée type which is resistant to ‘bolting’.

‘Frenzy’ AGM:Compact and uniform with very finely cut leaves – used in top restaurants.

‘Lassie’ AGM:High yielding and well flavoured, with a very deeply cut leaf.

‘Natacha’ AGM:A tasty, hardy Batavian or Escarole type, for winter sowing. Resistant to ‘bolting’.

‘Golda’ AGM:A short-leaf Batavian type. Hardy for winter cropping, does not need ‘blanching’.

‘Cornet de Bordeaux’:An old variety - very tasty and extremely hardy.

‘Wallone’ AGM:Large, vigorous and high yielding with rich, green, finely cut leaves. Good for ‘cut and come again’ cropping.

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