The Chicory Plant And It’s Incredible Variety

grumolo verde

Maybe you already know that the chicory plant (Cichorium intybus) yields not just the root that is dried, roasted and added to coffee, but also radicchio and endive.

A few years ago, however, I chanced upon a catalog from Franchi Sementi and discovered a whole new world of chicories. The Italians have been breeding and selecting chicories for centuries. They use some for dipping in anchovy sauce. They use some for greens. Radicchio is one of the many head-forming chicories out there. They all vary in flavor and color, and they are all really easy to grow.

radicchio

Chicory is a weed. In Tucson, we still grow them in full to mostly full sun. Too much shade makes lanky, etiolated (stretching toward the light) plants. Plant seeds directly into the soil starting in September. Thin out seedlings according to the mature size of plants to allow for the best development. As crops grow and are harvested, plant successions of crops to keep you supplied with fresh plants. As they age they get more bitter. Some types of head forming chicories like to be blanched (plants are buried deeper to keep light away and stop development of chlorophyll). Most of the unusual varieties will have specific instructions on the seed packets.

Soil only needs to be moderately amended with some compost and manure and a general vegetable garden soil which I will go into in future articles. You might feed once or twice during the cool season with Kelp.

In general, especially concerning edibles, I do not advise feeding with inorganic plant foods like Miracle Grow, etc. These types of fertilizers kill microorganisms in the soil that feed plants. If you choose to use inorganic plant food, you should feed at AT LEAST half the suggested amount, and you will need to feed more often than with inorganic plant foods because they are water-soluble and find their way into the water shed (another reason I am not big on using these types of fertilizers). Also, you might as well not use organic foods because every time you use inorganics, you kill the microorganisms that convert organics into plant food.

puntarelle

My favorite weird chicory is puntarelle. It is grown for it’s stems, which are cut up and used in salads, or dipped in various sauces and eaten.

The first time I grew puntarelle I had no idea they made the strange thickened stems they make and thought I had a strange mite problem. I looked into things, however, and discovered that this was how the plant grew. This became one of my favorite cool-season veggies to grow and introduce to other people.

Here is a recipe for puntarelle.

Here is a video on the preparation of puntarelle.

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