Endive is a really great ingredient to be used for salads or as greens. It comes in two types. An upright Batavian or escarole with larger broad leaves. This type is very robust, crops in the winter and the outer leaves can be used as greens. And the second type, is a curly or fringed frisee hence its alternative name of Curly Endive. This has delicately serrated leaves and crops in the summer.
Endive germinates best at 20-22°C (68-72°F) but can germinate at temperatures as low as 15°C (59°F). Plants tend to bolt if temperatures fall below 5C (41°F) for too long, but bolt-resistant cultivars are around so looks these out.
Sow from February to October for ‘cut and come again’ seedlings. Warm the soil by covering with an Easy Poly Tunnel for a month before you plant. Then cover with an Easy Fleece Tunnel to keep out the chill. Sow in broad drills or containers every three weeks.
For summer varieties Sow thinly from April to August, 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 23-38cm (9-13in) apart.
Soils should be light, rich and free draining, It is all about getting the water right for Endive. They don't like to be soggy so make sure they don't get waterlogged. And dry soil can cause them to ‘bolt’ so try to keep the soil moist.
If you like your endive bitter than pray for a hot summer as high temperatures encourage the bitterness. Water thoroughly before the onset of dry weather, mulch and keep weed free. Liquid feed fortnightly in summer with a general fertiliser.
In order to keep the texture at its best for eating blanch the at about 12 weeks after sowing. This will keep the plant white and tender. Blanch a few at a time as they need to be eaten soon after blanching. Make sure the leaves are dry so that they don't rot and then choose whichever way you find easiest. Some of the options are
- tie the leaves loosely together with raffia or soft string.
- Build up the soil round the plant leaving just the top exposed
- cover with a bucket or a black plastic pot with the drainage holes covered
This process takes about 10-14 days, but if its cold may take longer.
‘Cut and come again’ crops can be harvested after about five weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they bolt.
Cut off the head with a sharp knife when the head is mature and the leaves are creamy white.
Harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors.
Pests & Diseases
Slugs and snails: feed on the young seedlings so make sure you protect your plants with a Slug Buster.
Aphids: Greenfly love the soft shoot tips of plants and the leaves. Pinch them off with finger and thumb or try to encourage their predators like lady birds into your garden by planting wildlife friendly plants.