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This lesson is a continuation of Four Salads For Winter.

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 Lesson 12, 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 Lesson 12, 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.


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 & propagate
Transplant - Size, time of year, Spacing, support
container growing
Prune and train plants/thin fruit
Harvest times and method
Potential problems

And finally


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.