Chicory is a biennial that often behaves as a short lived perennial, although it is often grown as an annual. Long appreciated by European gardeners, chicory is beginning to makes its way into American gardens for its flavorful leaves in salads or eaten alone as a blanched side dish. Chicory was introduced into the United States in the 1700s, and its roots have long been a coffee substitute, used by both sides during the American Civil War when coffee supplies were scarce. Chicory is also known as coffeeweed, Belgian endive, and Italian dandelion.
Chicory can endure a wide range of soil conditions (including acid soils) and is well adapted to temperate weather. It grows best in loose, moderately drained rich soil. The soil pH should be above 5.5. Work in a 2 inch layer of organic matter into your garden bed, then rake and remove dirt clods before sowing.
When to Plant
Fast-growing chicories can be grown in the spring, however if the weather heats up before the crop is harvested, the leaves can turn bitter. For plants ready to be picked in October to December, sow your seeds in July or August, or six to eight weeks before the first fall frost. Chicory grows best in temperatures ranging from 45 degrees F to 75 degrees F. Plant so that your chicory is ready for harvest in cool weather.
How to Plant
Sow your seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, 2 inches apart, in rows 18-24 inches apart. Cover with a layer of fine soil. Thin your seedlings to 8 to 12 inches apart. Chicory likes full sun but will tolerate some shade. Maintain even soil moisture at all times. Aged compost can be added as a side dressing mid-season. Chicory is a relatively easy-to-care-for garden plant.
In addition, chicory is great for smothering out weeds. For this reason, planting your chicory between rows of peas and corn can help cut down on your weeding chores.
You can harvest chicory incrementally by stripping off the leaves or you can cut the entire head.
Chicory really doesn’t have any natural predators or diseases. If you see holes in your leaves caused by slugs, hand pick them off and set out traps.