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The best way to grow Endive

Written by Sarah Talbot

How to Grow Endive

2 curly Endive growing

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.


Growing Endive from Seed

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.

Winter Endive

For winter endive varieties. Sow in Rootrainers for best results from mid to late August, transplant and grow in the greenhouse or plant outside and use Bell Cloches from October- November.

Summer Endive

For summer varieties Sow thinly from April to August, 1cm (½in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart, thinning to 23-38cm (9-13in) apart.

Cut And Come Agian Endive

Endive can be grown as whole heads or as Cut and Come Again endive leaves. The secret to growing it this way is to plant seeds every 2 to 3 weeks and keep harvesting the leaves.  The more you harvest, the more the plant will produce and it will keep you in salad for much of the winter.  This is ideal if you grow endive in containers 

For Cut and Come again leaves - sow from February to October. If growing in the ground, 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 every two to three weeks.

If growing in containers - choose a shallow planter and either place it somewhere sheltered or use a Bell Cloche to wam the soil a little.  Then plant in the same way as above, every 2 to 3 weeks. 

How to Care for Endive plants

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.

3 Endive on a white dish

How to Blanch Endive

Endive needs to be blanched to remove the bitterness from the leaves and to achieve the traditional yellow / white colour. 

Blanching is a technique used in vegetable growing. Young shoots of a plant are covered to exclude light to prevent photosynthesis and the production of chlorophyll, and thus remain pale in color.

In order to keep the texture at its best for eating blanch them at about 12 weeks after sowing. This will keep the plant white and tender.

Top Gardening Tip:
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. 

Here are 3 ways to blanch endive:-

  • 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.

Harvesting Endive

‘Cut and come again’ crops can be harvested after about five weeks – one or two cuts are possible before they bolt. Harvest ‘cut and come again’ leaves with scissors.

For whole heads, when the head is mature and the leaves will be creamy white.  At this point, cut off the head with a sharp knife . 

Endive Pests & Diseases

Slugs and snails: feed on the young endive seedlings so make sure you protect your plants with a beer trap 

Aphids: Greenfly love the soft shoot tips of endive 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.



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