How to Grow Endive
This plant should be more widely grown. Endive and escarole are cool-season biennials grown as annuals. Both are salad greens similar to lettuce but stronger flavoured. Use in salads additional to lettuce, or steam like spinach.
There are two types of endive: the upright Batavian or escarole with large broad leaves; and the curly or fringed frisee with delicately serrated leaves used for summer cropping, broad-leaved types are robust and are useful for winter cropping. The outer leaves can be cooked as greens. The Batavian variety takes the place of lettuce for winter salad; it has a crisp, white heart of lettuce-like leaves of delightful flavour. In late autumn bleach the leaves by covering the plant with an inverted flower-pot.
Cultivate as for lettuce, the way to grow endive (and escarole) is very similar to those for lettuce. As with all greens, continuous, rapid growth is the key to producing healthy plants. Grow endive and escarole in full sun. These plants prefer well-worked, well-drained soil that is moisture retention and a good crop requires garden soil with good drainage and that has been well worked.
Prepare the gardening bed with compost and well-rotted manure, kept close to the surface (endive has shallow roots). Dry soil can cause ‘bolting’ (running to seed), so keep the soil moist.
When soil temperatures are between 15°C and 25°C plant from seed directly into the prepared beds space plants: 20 – 30 cm apart. 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 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).
Harvest in 10-11 weeks. Sever the head with a sharp knife when the leaves are creamy white or harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors after about5 weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they run to seed.
Endive Companion plants: beans, brassicas, carrots, cucumbers, chervil, sage.
Tips for growing endive
- Keep plants weed free
- Protect from snails, slugs and aphids
- Water at base as water trapped inside leaves will cause rot
- Blanch 15 days before harvest to reduce bitterness
- Best grown in cooler months as hot weather might make it bolt to flower
- Keep well watered to also reduce bitterness