Endive

Cichorium endivia

Endive is in the chicory family, but grows in a different way to most of what is called chicory.

Endive

This guide is a continuation of Four Salads For Winter.

Introduction

Endive (Cichorium endivia) is in the chicory family, but grows in a different way to most of what is called chicory (Cichorium intybus). This quote from Wikipedia sums it up: ‘There is considerable confusion between Cichorium endivia and Cichorium intybus.’

I describe chicories in the chicory/radiccio guide, on growing them for both radicchio and chicons.

  • Chicons are sometimes called ‘endives’, but they are not at all like endive salad leaves!
  • Endive plants are grown for leafy and bitter green leaves, rarely with heads, and never with tight heads such as radicchios or chicons.

I am describing them here rather than in the chicory/radiccio guide, to ‘create a little space’ between endive and chicory.

Nonetheless, endive and chicory are closely related and intertwined, in both gardening and cooking.

28th July 2020 – a drone view of the garden; frizzy endive can be seen to the right and a bed further up will soon be planted with endive
15 days later, showing a lot of new growth, compared to the previous photo, on the chicory bed third from the camera; the frizzy endive nearest to the camera is cropping weekly – we picked it yesterday

Endives flower in the spring, so make your first sowings after that time. They do not flower in summer and autumn, except for any premature bolting. Flowers are a pretty blue, like those of chicory.

  • Days from seed to first harvest: 40 for leaves to pick, and 75 for large plants to cut
  • Best climate is temperate and moist, summers not too hot, say afternoons of 21–33 ° C/70–90 °F, with occasional rain or storms.

Why grow them

For green leaves in autumn, endives are more reliable than lettuce because they suffer less mildew. This relates to late summer through autumn being their main season for new growth. This creates a strong root system to power flowering in spring.

The leaves are bitter and with a firm texture, so they give more body to a bowl of salad leaves than lettuce. Endive leaves store for longer than lettuce leaves, thanks to a higher dry matter content, with proportionately less water.

  • Bitterness is now considered beneficial for our bodies, so I feel it’s worth cultivating the taste to enjoy and appreciate endive leaves.
  • Frizzy/frisée leaves are very beautiful.
21st August, just before the first pick of Scarole endive; see also Rudbeckia, parsnip and chard
The same Scarole endive, after eleven weekly harvests and still giving small picks in mid-November; the parsnips to the left have now died back

Pattern of growth

Endive are biennial and make most leaf growth in the second half of a year. If you sow in the spring, harvests are small before they rise to flower. For us, this fits well with lettuce, whose season of healthiest leaf growth and highest harvests is in spring and early summer, the opposite to endive.

Through winter outside, endive is hardy but absolutely not prolific. It is almost as prone to rotting in winter as is lettuce. Continual dampness is more of a problem than low temperatures.

Under cover, endive can be productive all winter in mild conditions – in early spring especially. Then, when it flowers in late spring, it is a sight to behold.

September – these were all sown at the same time, illustrating the variable speed of growth of endive compared to mizuna and pak choi
Two different endives – Bubikopf scarole on the left and Plantain frisée on the right, both ready to transplant
28th March – these polytunnel salads were sown six months earlier and picked many times since; Aery F1 endive balls are hugely productive at this time, and are always picked rather than cut

Suitable for containers/shade?

Endive grows in the shade and is an excellent plant for containers, thanks to its shallow rooting system and only a small need for space. However, seedlings are prone to slug damage.

If you enjoy the slight bitterness and a firm texture, with more fibre than lettuce, endives are an excellent vegetable for any small space.

Varieties

There are two main types: scarole, and frizzy or frisée. Scarole have larger and round leaves, while frizzy grows slender leaves with many serrations.

Bubikopf and Diva scaroles are both super vigorous, with large and quite pale leaves in late summer to early autumn, then much smaller new leaves, although still growing, even in November.

En Cornet de Bordeaux scarole has a more pointy habit of upwards growth.

Frenzy frizzy grows fast, with more than ten weeks of decent harvests with tender leaves.

Fine Maraîchère frizzy has finer, thinner stems than Frenzy and crops well over a long period.

Wallone frizzy is a darker green than other frizzy varieties, with fatter stems than Fine Maraîchère.

Aery F1 is the most vigorous frizzy I grow, and it crops well in a polytunnel through winter.

Impressive mature heads of Scarole endive on 30th October, sown on 30th July and transplanted on 6th September
Showing how large Scarole endive can grow – this Bubikopf was cut in November
Mid-October – these Bubikopf endive were transplanted six weeks ago and have now given three large weekly picks of healthy leaves with no mildew

Sow and propagate

Endive seeds are slightly larger than lettuce and germinate rapidly, partly thanks to being sown in summer warmth.

  • Seeds germinate in four to six days.

Sowing time

Follow the table above, for picking from July until April. We sow from the 10th of June until early September. The last sowing is for planting under cover in October, and they crop right through until late April, when flower stems become prominent, with few new leaves.

Lifting endive seedlings from a tray, to prick into module cells for eventual planting outside; the seeds were sown at the same time as the red mustard in front
Use a pencil or equivalent to make a hole for each seedling in the cell of a module tray, then drop the seedlings in – it’s good to bury the stems

Sowing method

Picking and cutting are easier from just one plant, with better leaf quality.

Either sow in a tray, for pricking one seedling to a module cell, or sow two seeds per cell and thin to the strongest. Cover seeds with just a little compost, not too much.

Transplant, interplant

Transplant size and time

You will often be setting out plants just three weeks after sowing them. Once the first true leaf appears, growth is rapid, at least as fast as lettuce but less fast than brassicas.

28th June – we had just transplanted these endives, then covered them with netting against birds and rabbits
8th July – the same planting; the small endives have already doubled in size, and will now grow very rapidly

Transplant method

Of all salad plants, endive grow closest to the ground and you can transplant them a little less deep than others. It’s an attribute of many plants growing through autumn and into winter, that they nestle down and snuggle into the soil. This actually makes outer leaves hard to pick, and gives an advantage to cutting in the dark months.

Spacing

As for many salad plants, 22 cm/9 in, in all directions. Or if you want large heads of scarole endive, 30 cm/12 in.

Interplant

The best time for interplanting between endives is in late autumn as new growth slows. I have had good results with dill and coriander, for example.

16th September, and we had just transplanted six-week-old dill between the Wallone endive, which is now ready for its ninth weekly pick
The same dill and endive on 28th September, after we cut the endive, and suddenly it is noticeably smaller – good for the interplants
4th November – this frosty view shows how well the same dill is growing, bottom right, with the last few and small endive leaves just visible

Water

You will probably need to water plants in the summer months and early autumn. Mostly, however, endive plants are growing strongly at a time of year when there is likely to be sufficient moisture, through autumn. If they are growing strongly in dry conditions, you need to water regularly, as for lettuce.

Harvest times and methods

How to judge readiness

From plantings at my recommended spacing, one guide to timing your first pick is to do it when all leaves are touching each other. This is about three weeks after transplanting.

30th August – these transplants were made in late June; now see the lettuce and endive bed after seven weeks of picking, with Frenzy at this end
Picking 2 kg/4.4 lb of endive leaves from 26 plants; these outer leaves have been picked for the past nine weeks
28th September – autumn salads include Bubikopf scarole endive, closest to the camera, with Valmaine cos lettuce picked five times; the last pick was two days earlier

How to pick

I recommend twisting off outer leaves, which are lowest to the ground and, unfortunately, often a little dirty.

Hold the stalk of each leaf to pick between finger and thumb, close to a plant’s centre. Twist it one way then back again, detaching each stalk close to the main stem. This makes it easier to pick the next time and reduces slug interest (in old stalk ends); the stalks are tasty too.

  • You can harvest by cutting across the top of plants, for harvesting less frequently but more quickly. Endives tolerate cutting better than lettuce, whose life is much shortened by cutting.

When to pick and how often

You can pick every five days or so and store leaves in a bag. Wash straight after picking, when any soil or compost is easy to wash off.

Pick in the mornings for freshest quality and for that leaves that store well. Or in the afternoon, when leaves are drier, pick cleaner leaves with less dirt. If they are limp,  you can revive them in cool water.

  • It always fascinates and saddens me how, through autumn, the same plants diminish in size and stature with every passing week.

This demonstrates the importance of light levels, which decline so rapidly during October and early November. By mid-November it’s rare to have worthwhile new growth outside; it’s more likely on newer plants under cover, where better growing conditions mitigate the effects of lower light levels.

7th October – autumn salads include frisée endive being cut successively, as well as red Tuska lettuce which was sown on 15th July
A closer view of cut and uncut Frenzy endive – the cut is horizontal; follow it with a tidy of any decaying leaves, so there is no slug habitat
Late August in a different bed –  Frenzy endive after six weekly picks of outer leaves, and no cuts yet

Storing

Endive leaves store better than lettuce, as long as they are moist and in a bag, preferably below 10 °C/50° F.

Saving seed

My first attempt was in 2020 when I allowed just one plant to seed in the greenhouse. We had sowed it the previous autumn and picked leaves from plants through winter and spring, then left one plant to flower and grow seed. You can see it in the first part of my melon video in Lesson 29, with pretty blue flowers.

I was not sure that this would work because it was only one plant. However,Fro the plants grown from it are excellent, six months down the line. There is no sign of inbreeding, and I conclude that endive is like lettuce – you need just one plant for viable seed. The information I can glean elsewhere is vague about this.

Potential problems

For pests, it’s the same likely ones as for salads above, of rabbits and slugs. Deer like endive too, much more than lettuce, and I find bird netting to be an effective barrier.

There are very few problems with disease, just a little mildew on older leaves. Pick them anyway while harvesting the good leaves, and grade them into your ‘compost bucket’. Always have two containers when picking, so that plants are tidy for the next pick. You save time in the end with a tidy approach to picking, and to gardening generally.

22nd August, in a wet summer – directly sown leaf radish on the left, much more slug eaten than the transplanted endives on the right

And finally

Clear

The first season of clearing is late autumn, as new growth ceases and it’s no longer worth coming back to pick more. Use either a trowel to cut the main stem just at or below soil level, or place your hands around the whole plant while rotating, to remove the stem and its main few roots. Then smooth or rake level the bed surface, and you are ready to transplant modules for winter.

The second season of clearing is early spring and mostly under cover, as plants rise to flower. Twist them out, rake level and spread up to 4 cm/1.5 in of compost before transplanting summer vegetables.

Follow with

You have a clean slate after endive, because they finish before plantings of the new year. I have grown lettuce (same plant family) after endive and without any problem. Any other vegetable would also work well.

Endive

Cichorium endivia

Endive is in the chicory family, but grows in a different way to most of what is called chicory.

Endive

This guide is a continuation of Four Salads For Winter.

Introduction

Endive (Cichorium endivia) is in the chicory family, but grows in a different way to most of what is called chicory (Cichorium intybus). This quote from Wikipedia sums it up: ‘There is considerable confusion between Cichorium endivia and Cichorium intybus.’

I describe chicories in the chicory/radiccio guide, on growing them for both radicchio and chicons.

  • Chicons are sometimes called ‘endives’, but they are not at all like endive salad leaves!
  • Endive plants are grown for leafy and bitter green leaves, rarely with heads, and never with tight heads such as radicchios or chicons.

I am describing them here rather than in the chicory/radiccio guide, to ‘create a little space’ between endive and chicory.

Nonetheless, endive and chicory are closely related and intertwined, in both gardening and cooking.

28th July 2020 – a drone view of the garden; frizzy endive can be seen to the right and a bed further up will soon be planted with endive
15 days later, showing a lot of new growth, compared to the previous photo, on the chicory bed third from the camera; the frizzy endive nearest to the camera is cropping weekly – we picked it yesterday

Endives flower in the spring, so make your first sowings after that time. They do not flower in summer and autumn, except for any premature bolting. Flowers are a pretty blue, like those of chicory.

  • Days from seed to first harvest: 40 for leaves to pick, and 75 for large plants to cut
  • Best climate is temperate and moist, summers not too hot, say afternoons of 21–33 ° C/70–90 °F, with occasional rain or storms.

Why grow them

For green leaves in autumn, endives are more reliable than lettuce because they suffer less mildew. This relates to late summer through autumn being their main season for new growth. This creates a strong root system to power flowering in spring.

The leaves are bitter and with a firm texture, so they give more body to a bowl of salad leaves than lettuce. Endive leaves store for longer than lettuce leaves, thanks to a higher dry matter content, with proportionately less water.

  • Bitterness is now considered beneficial for our bodies, so I feel it’s worth cultivating the taste to enjoy and appreciate endive leaves.
  • Frizzy/frisée leaves are very beautiful.
21st August, just before the first pick of Scarole endive; see also Rudbeckia, parsnip and chard
The same Scarole endive, after eleven weekly harvests and still giving small picks in mid-November; the parsnips to the left have now died back

Pattern of growth

Endive are biennial and make most leaf growth in the second half of a year. If you sow in the spring, harvests are small before they rise to flower. For us, this fits well with lettuce, whose season of healthiest leaf growth and highest harvests is in spring and early summer, the opposite to endive.

Through winter outside, endive is hardy but absolutely not prolific. It is almost as prone to rotting in winter as is lettuce. Continual dampness is more of a problem than low temperatures.

Under cover, endive can be productive all winter in mild conditions – in early spring especially. Then, when it flowers in late spring, it is a sight to behold.

September – these were all sown at the same time, illustrating the variable speed of growth of endive compared to mizuna and pak choi
Two different endives – Bubikopf scarole on the left and Plantain frisée on the right, both ready to transplant
28th March – these polytunnel salads were sown six months earlier and picked many times since; Aery F1 endive balls are hugely productive at this time, and are always picked rather than cut

Suitable for containers/shade?

Endive grows in the shade and is an excellent plant for containers, thanks to its shallow rooting system and only a small need for space. However, seedlings are prone to slug damage.

If you enjoy the slight bitterness and a firm texture, with more fibre than lettuce, endives are an excellent vegetable for any small space.

Varieties

There are two main types: scarole, and frizzy or frisée. Scarole have larger and round leaves, while frizzy grows slender leaves with many serrations.

Bubikopf and Diva scaroles are both super vigorous, with large and quite pale leaves in late summer to early autumn, then much smaller new leaves, although still growing, even in November.

En Cornet de Bordeaux scarole has a more pointy habit of upwards growth.

Frenzy frizzy grows fast, with more than ten weeks of decent harvests with tender leaves.

Fine Maraîchère frizzy has finer, thinner stems than Frenzy and crops well over a long period.

Wallone frizzy is a darker green than other frizzy varieties, with fatter stems than Fine Maraîchère.

Aery F1 is the most vigorous frizzy I grow, and it crops well in a polytunnel through winter.

Impressive mature heads of Scarole endive on 30th October, sown on 30th July and transplanted on 6th September
Showing how large Scarole endive can grow – this Bubikopf was cut in November
Mid-October – these Bubikopf endive were transplanted six weeks ago and have now given three large weekly picks of healthy leaves with no mildew

Sow and propagate

Endive seeds are slightly larger than lettuce and germinate rapidly, partly thanks to being sown in summer warmth.

  • Seeds germinate in four to six days.

Sowing time

Follow the table above, for picking from July until April. We sow from the 10th of June until early September. The last sowing is for planting under cover in October, and they crop right through until late April, when flower stems become prominent, with few new leaves.

Lifting endive seedlings from a tray, to prick into module cells for eventual planting outside; the seeds were sown at the same time as the red mustard in front
Use a pencil or equivalent to make a hole for each seedling in the cell of a module tray, then drop the seedlings in – it’s good to bury the stems

Sowing method

Picking and cutting are easier from just one plant, with better leaf quality.

Either sow in a tray, for pricking one seedling to a module cell, or sow two seeds per cell and thin to the strongest. Cover seeds with just a little compost, not too much.

Transplant, interplant

Transplant size and time

You will often be setting out plants just three weeks after sowing them. Once the first true leaf appears, growth is rapid, at least as fast as lettuce but less fast than brassicas.

28th June – we had just transplanted these endives, then covered them with netting against birds and rabbits
8th July – the same planting; the small endives have already doubled in size, and will now grow very rapidly

Transplant method

Of all salad plants, endive grow closest to the ground and you can transplant them a little less deep than others. It’s an attribute of many plants growing through autumn and into winter, that they nestle down and snuggle into the soil. This actually makes outer leaves hard to pick, and gives an advantage to cutting in the dark months.

Spacing

As for many salad plants, 22 cm/9 in, in all directions. Or if you want large heads of scarole endive, 30 cm/12 in.

Interplant

The best time for interplanting between endives is in late autumn as new growth slows. I have had good results with dill and coriander, for example.

16th September, and we had just transplanted six-week-old dill between the Wallone endive, which is now ready for its ninth weekly pick
The same dill and endive on 28th September, after we cut the endive, and suddenly it is noticeably smaller – good for the interplants
4th November – this frosty view shows how well the same dill is growing, bottom right, with the last few and small endive leaves just visible

Transplant size and time

You will often be setting out plants just three weeks after sowing them. Once the first true leaf appears, growth is rapid, at least as fast as lettuce but less fast than brassicas.

28th June – we had just transplanted these endives, then covered them with netting against birds and rabbits
8th July – the same planting; the small endives have already doubled in size, and will now grow very rapidly

Transplant method

Of all salad plants, endive grow closest to the ground and you can transplant them a little less deep than others. It’s an attribute of many plants growing through autumn and into winter, that they nestle down and snuggle into the soil. This actually makes outer leaves hard to pick, and gives an advantage to cutting in the dark months.

Spacing

As for many salad plants, 22 cm/9 in, in all directions. Or if you want large heads of scarole endive, 30 cm/12 in.

Interplant

The best time for interplanting between endives is in late autumn as new growth slows. I have had good results with dill and coriander, for example.

16th September, and we had just transplanted six-week-old dill between the Wallone endive, which is now ready for its ninth weekly pick
The same dill and endive on 28th September, after we cut the endive, and suddenly it is noticeably smaller – good for the interplants
4th November – this frosty view shows how well the same dill is growing, bottom right, with the last few and small endive leaves just visible

Water

You will probably need to water plants in the summer months and early autumn. Mostly, however, endive plants are growing strongly at a time of year when there is likely to be sufficient moisture, through autumn. If they are growing strongly in dry conditions, you need to water regularly, as for lettuce.

Harvest times and methods

How to judge readiness

From plantings at my recommended spacing, one guide to timing your first pick is to do it when all leaves are touching each other. This is about three weeks after transplanting.

30th August – these transplants were made in late June; now see the lettuce and endive bed after seven weeks of picking, with Frenzy at this end
Picking 2 kg/4.4 lb of endive leaves from 26 plants; these outer leaves have been picked for the past nine weeks
28th September – autumn salads include Bubikopf scarole endive, closest to the camera, with Valmaine cos lettuce picked five times; the last pick was two days earlier

How to pick

I recommend twisting off outer leaves, which are lowest to the ground and, unfortunately, often a little dirty.

Hold the stalk of each leaf to pick between finger and thumb, close to a plant’s centre. Twist it one way then back again, detaching each stalk close to the main stem. This makes it easier to pick the next time and reduces slug interest (in old stalk ends); the stalks are tasty too.

  • You can harvest by cutting across the top of plants, for harvesting less frequently but more quickly. Endives tolerate cutting better than lettuce, whose life is much shortened by cutting.

When to pick and how often

You can pick every five days or so and store leaves in a bag. Wash straight after picking, when any soil or compost is easy to wash off.

Pick in the mornings for freshest quality and for that leaves that store well. Or in the afternoon, when leaves are drier, pick cleaner leaves with less dirt. If they are limp,  you can revive them in cool water.

  • It always fascinates and saddens me how, through autumn, the same plants diminish in size and stature with every passing week.

This demonstrates the importance of light levels, which decline so rapidly during October and early November. By mid-November it’s rare to have worthwhile new growth outside; it’s more likely on newer plants under cover, where better growing conditions mitigate the effects of lower light levels.

7th October – autumn salads include frisée endive being cut successively, as well as red Tuska lettuce which was sown on 15th July
A closer view of cut and uncut Frenzy endive – the cut is horizontal; follow it with a tidy of any decaying leaves, so there is no slug habitat
Late August in a different bed –  Frenzy endive after six weekly picks of outer leaves, and no cuts yet

Storing

Endive leaves store better than lettuce, as long as they are moist and in a bag, preferably below 10 °C/50° F.

Saving seed

My first attempt was in 2020 when I allowed just one plant to seed in the greenhouse. We had sowed it the previous autumn and picked leaves from plants through winter and spring, then left one plant to flower and grow seed. You can see it in the first part of my melon video in Lesson 29, with pretty blue flowers.

I was not sure that this would work because it was only one plant. However,Fro the plants grown from it are excellent, six months down the line. There is no sign of inbreeding, and I conclude that endive is like lettuce – you need just one plant for viable seed. The information I can glean elsewhere is vague about this.

Potential problems

For pests, it’s the same likely ones as for salads above, of rabbits and slugs. Deer like endive too, much more than lettuce, and I find bird netting to be an effective barrier.

There are very few problems with disease, just a little mildew on older leaves. Pick them anyway while harvesting the good leaves, and grade them into your ‘compost bucket’. Always have two containers when picking, so that plants are tidy for the next pick. You save time in the end with a tidy approach to picking, and to gardening generally.

22nd August, in a wet summer – directly sown leaf radish on the left, much more slug eaten than the transplanted endives on the right

And finally

Clear

The first season of clearing is late autumn, as new growth ceases and it’s no longer worth coming back to pick more. Use either a trowel to cut the main stem just at or below soil level, or place your hands around the whole plant while rotating, to remove the stem and its main few roots. Then smooth or rake level the bed surface, and you are ready to transplant modules for winter.

The second season of clearing is early spring and mostly under cover, as plants rise to flower. Twist them out, rake level and spread up to 4 cm/1.5 in of compost before transplanting summer vegetables.

Follow with

You have a clean slate after endive, because they finish before plantings of the new year. I have grown lettuce (same plant family) after endive and without any problem. Any other vegetable would also work well.