Chicory is a winter veggie. You can harvest “witlof” when snow falls.
Growing chicory consists of 2 parts:
- In spring (May), chicory seed is sown in the garden soil. The seeds will germinate and big chicory plants will grow in the garden. A full-grown plant has big oblong green leaves and a gray/brown coloured root.
- In autumn (September to November) plants are taken out of the soil. Greatest part of the green leaves is cut off until about 1.5 inch above the root.
On the photo above you see chicory plants with long roots and cut leaves, so called “chicory roots”.
At “normal species” of chicory, the chicory roots are put in a shallow pit in the garden soil. Some earth is strewn between the chicory roots. Then a layer of garden earth or straw is put over the chicory roots. Layer thickness is about 6 to 8 inch. On each root there grows a small head. The heads are white/light yellow because they grow in the dark. The leaves grow in a head form due to the pressure of the straw or the earth above them. This method is called “growing with earth coverage“.
At special chicory species, there is no need for a thick layer of straw or earth during growing. The chicory roots are put in big flowerpots with garden soil or compost in it. The pots are placed in the dark. On each root, a small white (or light yellow) head grows “just in the air”. This method is called “growing without earth coverage“.
Growing chicory without earth coverage is the most simple method and is described in this post.
Witloof grows in the dark
In the light, loose green leaves grow on chicory roots. The leaves form a group but no head.
A)# Chicory species
I use this species of chicory (without earth coverage). At the back side of the sachet, the species name “Videna” has been printed. The (English) tekst “for forcing” means no earth coverage.
I also used 2 other species “without earth coverage”: Zoom F1 and Focus F1. The seeds of all 3 species resulted in healty chicory plants. Good, big witloof heads grew on the roots. More info about chicory seed in tip 40) Info on a seed package .
On the internet there is much info about about chicory forcing, for example this site .
B)# Sowing chicory in mid spring (May)
Mid spring (May) is the right period to sow chicory in the garden soil. When sowing earlier, you won’t get bigger plants. Sowing later do result in smaller plants.
Chicory grows well in soil with little humus. So use a part of your garden that contains little or no manure or compost. The earth must be loose to get straight roots. Spaded soil is okay.
B1) Making a furrow and spraying water in the furrow
- Put a string or elastic band above the garden soil so you can sow in a straight line.
- Or put a nylon string with knots (every 10 or 15 centimeters, 4 or 6 inch) above the soil. More info about this string in tip 38) Sowing groups of seeds .
- Use a scoop to loose the soil deeply under the string. Push the scoop in the soil, move it aside (wiggle) to loosen the soil, pull it out of the soil, push it in the soil a few inches further, etcetera.
- Strew some moist finely crushed garden earth on the seeds in the furrow. Layer thickness about 1/4 inch. You can fill a small plastic flower pot with a little moist earth and strew the earth through the bottom holes of the pot.
B4) Covering the furrow
- It is good to cover the furrow with pieces of corrugated plate or a band of fabric. This prevents seeds from drying out at dry weather or from washing away during heavy showers. Remove this covering when first chicory plants are above the soil.
When plants in the furrow are about 5 centimeters (2 inch) high, thin out until per group 2 chicory plants are left. When possible 2 plants that are “far apart”. That’s better at the next thinning out. Water the plants after thinning.
After some weeks, pull out smallest plant of each pair. So one plant, the biggest one, remains in the soil. Water the plant after thinning.
When there is only one plant shot up in a group, thinning is not necessary, of course.
B6) Empty groups (no plants cropped up)
It can happen that no plants have been shot up. Or accidently you pulled out all plants during thinning out. Or a mole has undermined the furrow and many seeds or plants are gone.
Then it is good to have some reseve chicory plants. Providing extra plants can be done as follows:
- Sow extra chicory plants on a small plant bed somewhere else in the garden soil.
- Or use the plants in the furrow after first thinning; at each group of 2 plants, you can transplant 1 plant.
- Spray the plants before transplanting. Take each plant with a moist root ball out of the garden soil and replant it at an empty spot in the furrow. Then spray the plants in the furrow.
B7) Growing big
Chicory is an easy plant. Each week, hoe between the furrows and weed in the furrow between the (small) plants. When plants are big, hoeing and weeding is not needed anymore. Only pull out big weed plants.
Water small Chicory plants now and then. Water big plants at long droughts.
C)# Green Chicory plants in the garden
End of summer (August). Two rows with big chicory plants.
When plants are large, few weeds will grow between them. Thanks to the long root, the plant will not dry out so easy . The big leaves prevent the soil from drying out too fast. Only water the big plants at long droughts.
End of summer (August). Between the plants these kind of leaves are on the soil. That is okay.
D)# Harvesting green chicory plants
From early autumn (September) on, you can take the plants out of the soil. Use a spade or a fork.
In early autumn you can take the plants out of the garden soil and have them laying on the ground or the garden soil for about 5 to 10 days. During this time, nutrients will go from the leaves to the root (I read somewhere on the internet).
Lay the plants in a single, a double or a triple row on the ground. Lay foliage of the next plant on the roots of previous plant to protect the roots from drying out by sun heat. You will end with “bare”roots. Lay a plastic tray or wooden board or something like that on these roots.
From mid autumn (October) on, you can take the plants out of the soil and take them home immediately for further processing. The plants do not have to lay on the soil for some days then.
Spread the witloof harvest by frequently digging out the plants between early autumn and early winter. Put the digged roots in flower pots with compost.
E)# Cutting roots and foliage
As described above, you have to shorten the foliage of the Chicory plants before growing witloof. And then you better remove the outer leaves too. There are 2 methods to do this:
Further on in chapter G1), there is a description of method 2 (break off long outer leaves, then shorten the leaves).
Method 1, shortening, then breaking off
A plastic flower pot of about 10 to 12 inch high (edge to bottom) is suitable for forcing. At each chicory plant, a part of the root and a big part of the foliage is cut before putting in compost.
Cutting leaves and root(s) goes well when the chicory plant lays on a wooden board during cutting.
Use a sharp knife to cut a part from the root. After cutting, the length of the root is (approx.) equal to the height of the pot.
Use a sharp knife to shorten the foliage until 4 to 5 centimeters (1.5 to 2 inch) is left on the root.
Attention: Do not cut the foliage too short. At some species you can cut away all inner leaves then. The growing point of the root has been removed then. No big witloof head can grow on such a Chicory root.
Somewhat further in this post there are photos of Chicory roots with removed outer leaves. These photos show longer and shorter leaves growing on the root.
E1) Complicated plant roots
Some roots of chicory plants are “multiple” or very short. Then act as follows.
Multiple roots: Cut all long roots to the desired length. When there are also short thin roots, cut them near the thick part of the root.
Multiple roots are harder to put into the compost than straight roots. How to handle multiple roots, see chapter H2) Putting multiple roots in compost
Short roots with long, thin multiple roots: Cut away a big part of the thin multiple roots. When there are also short thin roots, cut them near the thick part of the root.
E2) Unusable roots
On these photos a part of a chicory plant that is forming a flower stem. So there are no leaves in the middle. On this root, no head will grow. You can’t use this root.
E3) Brown, bad leaves
After cutting the foliage, brown, withered, or “a little rotten” leaves can be visible. See photos below.
At this chicory root, all brown short leaves can be broken off (more about this in chapter G)# of this tip). Then a good witloof head can grow on that root.
This root has many brown short leaves, also near the centre. At this root there is a big risk of a rotten witloof head growing on it.
At a root with rotten leaves, you have to break off many leaves. Next step is cleaning the root with a soft brush under running tap water.
This is a rotten root after ‘cleaning’. Most of the time a normal witloof head will grow on it.
When the root and/or leaves are “very rotten”, do not use the root for growing a chicory head on.
Or cut away a part of the root (and leaves) until cut surface is clean. On this root many small heads will grow. These heads grow much slower than “normal”chicory heads. Heads look like the ones at N)# Test with “used” chicory roots.
F)# White liquid.
On this photo you see the top of cut foliage in close up. After cutting, white liquid is dripping from the leaves. That’s normal.
G)# Breaking off many small leaves
Further in this post you read that a chicory head grows on the middle of the root. The chicory head grows from the central short leaves. The outer short leaves dry or can rot and cause bad chicory heads.
After cutting off the foliage, you better remove many short leaves, starting from the outer side.
At this root, foliage has been cut.
And at the same root, many short leaves have been removed (from the outher side). The leaves in the center of the root are shorter than the leaves at the outer side. In the middle, the leaves are growing on a higher part of the root, on a small hill. That’s why you should not cut foliage “too short”.
Below some more photos about this topic:
Chicory roots just after cutting the foliage.
And on this photo the same roots with many outer short leaves removed. This looks better and there is less risk of rotting leaves or rotten witloof heads later.
G1) Breaking off big outer leaves before shortening
Above, there is a description of method 1; first shorten all foliage, then break off many short outer leaves from the root.
Method 2, breaking off, then shortening
One chicory plant digged out.
Break off all long outer leaves and some shorter leaves right above the top of the root.
Break off more (outer) leaves.
End up with a chicory plant with a few inner leaves, the heart of the plant.
Now you can put the chicory root in a (plastic) flower pot with compost.
At chicory species with a “round root top”, the inner leaves are growing higher on the root than the outer leaves. When you first cut all leaves shorter, you can end up with too short inner leaves. You can even cut in the root itself. Then you have removed the growing point of the root. On such a root there will be no big witloof head growing, but only many small heads.
Below there are some photos of breaking off and shortening at Chicory roots with round root top.
After breaking off big outer leaves and shortening inner leaves to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch), this root looks good. A good, big witloof head can grow on it.
This “half rotten” Chicory root has been digged out in December too (early winter). After breaking off outer leaves and cleaning and shortening inner leaves the root looks good.
At this root, it is also clearly visible that the inner leaves grow higher on the root than the outer leaves.
Both method 1 and method 2 work well. At method 2 there is less risk of “too short inner leaves”. So method 2 is somewhat better than method 1.
G2) How many short leaves minimal?
How many short leaves are minimal needed to grow normal witloof heads? Below an answer.
In this chapter there are photos of chicory roots with short leaves. They are put in a flower pot with compost. And there are photos of the same roots with witloof heads on it.
Further in this tip you can read how to put the roots in compost and how to grow the heads.
To grow witloof heads, chicory roots are put in a flower pot with compost. See photo above. Click on the photo for screen wide view.
On the photo there are roots with 4 to 7 small leaves per root. And roots with 8 to 12 leaves per root. And there are roots with more leaves.
At one root with many rotten leaves, a part of the top has been cut. That is the “cut root” with no short leaves.
The left photo above is the same photo with roots in compost. On the right photo above the same roots with heads grown on. At the edge of the flower pot there is a groove, a mark. It is visible at both photos. Click for wide view.
After taking out 3 roots, the “cut root” is clearly visible. There are only a few small heads on it.
All roots with heads on. At the far left side you see the “cut root”. All 8 normal heads have approximately the same size. All roots have few or some more small brown leaves. Click for wide view.
The lower part of the “cut root” has rotten in the compost. It has only 2 (3) small, tiny heads. When putting this root into the compost, there was no rotting spot visible.
The harvest on the 8 normal and 1 rotting Chicory roots (from above). Total 1120 grams of witloof.
Above there are 4 photos of other Chicory roots with few short leaves. Some short leaves are shorter than others. In the edge of this pot there is a deep V as mark. The left photo shows the roots after putting in compost. On the right photo you see the heads grown on the roots.
H)# Putting Chicory roots in a flower pot with compost
When growing Chicory heads, it can happen that (a part of) the roots, the leaves or the heads start rotting. To minimize the risk of rotting you can act as follows:
- Put the Chicory roots in a plastic flower pot filled with compost. In the bottom of the pot there are small holes.
- Do not put too many roots in the flower pot, otherwise Chicory heads grow against each other and can rot. About 7 to 10 roots in a flower pot of 12 inch top diameter is okay.
- The compost with Chicory roots is wetted once. After this wetting, no water is added to the compost anymore (except when compost is very dry).
- The leaves of the Chicory roots are above the upper edge of the flower pot.
- The top of each root is about 1 inch above the compost.
- When needed, push some roots aside in the compost. So roots are not too close to each other in the flower pot. The heads that grow on these roots will not touch each other then. As a result the heads will not rot so easy.
- Put a layer of dry sand on the compost. Layer thickness 0.5 to 1 inch. Use garden sand, masonry sand or sandbox sand.
- A dark cardboard cylinder is put over the flower pot with chicory roots. This cylinder has air openings.
- The above mentioned points provide a good air refreshment above and between the chicory roots, so little risk of rotting.
Below there are photos about putting Chicory roots in a flower pot with compost. You see roots with broken off short outer leaves. Further in this tip, at Q)# there are some photos of heads grown on “roots with all short leaves on”.
A chicory root with many small thin roots (multiple roots) is hard to put in a round hole in compost. You better lay this root in a slanting flower pot on a layer of compost. Then strew some compost on this root and put on another root. Etcetera. This method is described in chapter H2) Putting multiple roots in compost.
H1) Putting straight roots into compost
Needed: Straight chicory roots, a big plastic flowerpot, a bucket with “loose”compost and a planting dibber.
- Put compost in the flower pot until 1 to 2 centimeter (o.5 to 1 inch) below the edge.
- Gently push on the top of the compost (with the bottom of another flower pot) to compress the compost a little.
- Make a round deep hole in the compost.
- Push the dibber in the compost until its point reaches the bottom of the flower pot.
- Wiggle the dibber in the compost to make a \ / shaped hole.
- Carefully pull the dibber out of the compost, so no compost will fall in the hole.
- Put a chicory root in the hole.
- Push the root down when needed.
- Continue putting in roots until there is no more space in the pot. Or until there are no Chicory roots left.
- Is a root too high in the compost, take the root out. Cut a piece of the lower side of the root. Put the root back in the compost.
- Is a root too deep in compost, take the root out. Put some compost in the hole. Put the root back in the compost.
- For thin roots, use a thin dibber or a broomstick to make the holes in compost.
- When needed, strew some compost between the chicory roots in the flower pot. You can use a spoon to do this.
H2) Putting multiple roots in compost
After cutting, these Chicory roots have many thin roots next to each other. You can’t put them in a round hole in compost.
- Lay an empty flower pot slanting on a brick or something like that. Strew some compost in the pot against the “lowest side” of the pot.
- Lay a chicory root with many small roots on the layer of compost.
- Strew compost on and between the roots. Lay new roots on the compost. Etcetera.
- Continue until the pot is full of compost and chicory roots.
- Put the flower pot upright.
- When needed strew some more compost between the roots. You can use a spoon to do this.
- Shift the roots up or down when needed. Push the roots aside a little when they are too close to each other.
- Lift the flower pot a few inches and drop it on the floor again. This makes the compost sink between the roots.
- When needed strew more compost between the roots. You can use a spoon to do this.
- When you want to put “multiple Chicory roots” and “straight Chicory roots” in the same flower pot:
- Treat all roots as multiple roots. Lay all roots one after another on (in) compost in a slanting pot. Continue until the pot is full of compost and chicory roots. Put the flower pot upright. Or ……
- Or first lay all multiple roots on (in) compost in a slanting pot. Fill the slanting pot with compost until full. Put the flower pot upright. Make holes in the compost and put straight roots in the holes.
H3 Adding water
- Fill a watering can with cold tap water. Pour or spray much cold water over and between the chicory roots. Water may flow over the short leaves. In this way short laves are rinsed clean.
- Move or spread the roots when desired. In the wet compost you can move the roots easily. When roots are too close to each other, chicory heads can touch each other. These witloof heads can rot or brown spots can appear on the white leaves.
- Let the water fall in the compost.
- Pour or spray water on until the compost is wet through and a lot of water has flown through the holes in the bottom of the flower pot.
- Wait for about 24 hours to let most water flow out of the flower pot.
H4) Put the flower pot on a dish
- After the 24 hours of waiting, put the pot on a dish. This prevents water from dripping on the floor of the dark cellar or barn or garage.
- Later on, during witloof growth, you can pour water in this dish when the compost is too dry.
The photo above shows that the “necks” of the roots are at about the same level as the edge of the pot. The heighth of the compost is about 1 inch below the edge of the pot.
- When the dish is too small, you can put 3 blocks (pieces of wood) in the dish and put the flower pot on these blocks.
- Later on, during witloof growth, you better make a small pit in the top of the compost layer (“far away from the roots”) and water the roots via this pit.
- Caution; don’t wet the heads or the roots during watering. This can cause rotting or brown leaves at the heads.
H5) Put dry sand on the compost
- Put a layer of dry sand (garden sand, masonry sand or sandbox sand) on the compost. Layer thickness about 1 cm (0.5 inch). This reduces rotting of the chicory heads. Dry sand forms a barrier between the wet compost and the dry witloof heads. Also less earth worms wil crawl from the compost into the chicory heads. That’s better during cutting or eating the chicory harvest.
- The compost and the sand in the flower pot will dry out. Most of the time there is enough water in the compost to grow big witloof heads.
- When the compost might be too dry, pour some water in the flowerpot dish. Or make a small hole in the sand, “far away from the roots”, and pour some water in this hole.
- Caution; don’t wet the heads or the roots during watering. This can cause rotting or brown leaves at the heads.
I)# Put the flower pot with roots in the dark
The chicory heads must grow in the dark at about 15 C (59 F). Put the flower pot with roots in a dark place, in a cellar, cool barn or cool garage. And make a “pitch dark” area to have white heads growing.
This dark area can be made with:
I1) Cardboard box (narrow and high)
This photo shows a (too low) cardboard box over a flower pot with roots. In the edge of the box there are air openings.
For a flower pot of 10 to 12 inch high, this cardboard box is too low. You need a high narrow box. Such a box is hard to find. You better make another dark space as described below.
I2) Put another flower pot and dish on
For this dark space you need another big (black) plastic flower pot and a (black) plastic dish. Put the second flower pot upside down on the flower pot with roots. Lay the dish upside down on the upper flower pot.
In the bottom of the upper pot, not all holes are on the same level. Some holes are lower than the other ones. The lower holes are not blocked by the plastic dish laying on. These holes form the air openings needed to have the heads grow on the roots.
These witlof heads grew on chicory roots in a dark space made of 2 flower pots and a dish.
I3) Made of black cardboard, paper clips and clothespins
This dark area is cheap and easy to make. It is the best one.
Below more info about this dark area.
This construction has been made of 2 sheets of (black) cardboard. Size of each sheet is about 70 x 50 centimeters (2 ft 4 inch x 1 ft 8 inch). Eight paperclips ( 4 on top, 4 below) are used to keep the pieces of cardboards in a cylindrical shape.
Closeup of one side. The clotespins form an opening.
On this photo the 2 sheets are taken apart. The outer side of one piece of cardboard is visible.
One clothespin has been put on the edge of the cardboard. Another pin has been put “cross” on the first pin. When the sheets are put together these clothespins form the air opening.
You can put the clothespin on the inner edeg or on the outer edge of the cylinder. That makes no difference. As long as there is an air opening between the cardboard sheets.
When two pieces of cardboard overlap too much, the length of 2 clothespins can be too short. The air opening in the cylinder is too narrow then. Advice: Use 3 pins and connect them as shown on the photo above.
On the cylinder there is a kind of cardboard lid with edge. No light can get into the cylinder.
The edge of this lid is downward. The side of the cylinder is pushed inwards when laying the lid on. This lid does not shift aside and the cylinder keeps its shape. This construction forms a robust dark area.
You can make such a lid yourself:
This lid can be cut from a cardboard sheet. The lid is about 35 x 40 centimeters (14 x 16 inch). The edge is circa 4 centimeters (1.5 inch) high. Use staples to make the corners of the lid.
Instead of making, perhaps you can buy these type of cardboard boxes. When needed you can put extra staples in the glued cardboard pads. Against getting loose.
You can make and place this dark cylinder with both air openings away from the light. So towards the dark side of a cellar, cool barn or cool garage.
This dark space has a big volume. The air in this space is rather dry. The witloof heads growing in it have no or only few brown spots or brown small leaves.
I3a) Two flower pots in the dark
Using 2 sheets of black cardboard and an extra piece of black cardboard, you can make a dark area where 2 flower pots fit in.
I3b) Brown cardboard dark space
- You can cut (light brown) cardboard sheets from the lid or the bottom of a cardboard box.
- Bend the sheets in a cylindrical shape using paper clips and clothes pegs.
- This dark space works well too when growing witloof heads.
J)# Chicory heads after 10 days of growing
Below there are photos of my first witloof forcing. At these roots, no short leaves have been taken away. All short leaves are present. Forcing was at a rather high temperature.
This photo shows the chicory roots with small, thin heads. The heads grow from the inner small leaves. The heads have grown for 10 days in the dark at about 20 C (68F).
Close up. On this photo you see that the small outer leaves dry and colour to brown. They are not used for growing heads.
K)# Witloof heads, harvest after 26 days of growing
Below there are more photos of my first witloof forcing. At these roots, no short leaves have been taken away. All short leaves are present. Forcing was at a high temperature.
These chicory heads are big enough to harvest. It has grown in the dark for 26 days at 20 C (68F). At these heads all short leaves were present. The heads are “loose”. The leaves of these heads are not tight together (as normally at “grocery witloof”).
Close up. The short outer leaves have dried and turned to brown. And white leaves have brown stripes.
L)# Harvesting witloof heads
- You can harvest a head by breaking it off the root while the root is still in the compost.
- Or you take the root with head out of the compost. And break or cut the head from the root.
- Or you put a rubber band around the head. Then cut off the head about 1 inch above the root.
The 3rd method is new. After harvesting you can grow new heads on the roots again. At some species this goes better than at other species of Chicory. More info further in this tip.
All 3 procedures are described below. And you can read what procedure is easiest.
Below there are also photos of my first witloof forcing.
Fold the short leaves down at one side of the root, at the front side.
Bend the chicory head to the front. Turn, bend and pull the head until it breaks off from the root. Meanwhile hold the root with the other hand.
Harvest all witloof heads in this way.
All (10) heads have been harvested. Roots with short brown leaves remain.
The 10 harvested chicory heads. Total weight is 850 grams.
Forcing was in September-October in my cellar. Temperature was about 22 C (72 F). That is too warm. The heads are “loose”. The leaves of the heads are not as tight together as at “grocery witloof”. Forcing between 15 and 20 C (59 to 68 F) is better.
You need not to harvest all heads at the same time. You can keep some heads on the roots for later harvest.
L2) Taking out roots with heads and cutting or braking off the heads
Below there are photos of my next witloof forcing.
Carefully pull the root with head out of the compost.
Chicory root with head.
Break off or cut off the head from the root.
When broken off, there can be a part of the root attached to the head. Use a knife to cut the part of the root off.
You need not to harvest all heads at the same time. You can keep some roots with heads in the compost. Put compost in the flower pot to fill the empty space. Strew sand on the compost. Put the whole (on a dish) in a dark space until next harvest. Pour water on the dish when needed.
L3) Elastic band around the head, cut the witloof leaves above the root
Put an elastic band around the heads. The elastic band prevents the head from falling apart after cutting. The cut the head about 1 inch above the root. Store the witloof heads (leaves) with elastic band in a refrigerator when not used immediately.
You need not to harvest all heads at the same time. You can keep some roots with heads in the compost until next harvest. But don’t wait too long for the next harvest.
Some witloof leaves can “shift” (see the left head on the photo). This is due to the tension of the elastic band around the head. Hold the head with topside up and tap with the lower side on a cutting board to get the leaves good again.
After a few hours the cutting surface of the witloof can get brownish. See photo above. Cut a thin slice before preparing the witloof.
L4) Easiest harvesting procedure
The photo’s above show that “taking out the root with head and then cutting off the witloof head” is the easiest method.
But putting an elastic band around the head and cutting off above the root goes well too. After this harvest you can let new heads grow on the roots. Note: not at all Chicory species. See description in N)# New witloof heads on “used” chicory roots?
M)# Growing temperature
The 10 heads on the photo above have grown “too warm”. Forcing was in September-October in my cellar. Temperature was about 22 C (72 F). That is too warm. The heads are “loose”. The leaves of the heads are not as tight together as at “grocery witloof”. And they can taste more bitter. Forcing between 15 and 20 C (59 to 68 F) is better.
(the same photo as at L1).
These witloof heads have grown at a temperature of 10 to 15 C (50 to 59 F). The heads are more compact. These heads have some light green leaves due to growing in light for some days.
The heads on the 2 photos above have grown at about 12 C (54 F). Heads did not grow fast but heads are big and compact. The 4 heads on the photo weigh 810 grams in total.
Growing witloof heads goes well between 15 and 20 C (59 to 68 F). After 6 to 8 weeks you have big compact witloof heads that do not taste (very) bitter.
N)# New witloof heads on “used” chicory roots?
After harvesting, a flower pot with chicory roots remains. Can new witloof heads grow on these used roots again?
N1) Heads have been broken off
After breaking off the witloof heads, a flower pot with chicory roots remains. These are also photos of my first witloof forcing.
Next step is pouring much water between the roots until the compost is soaking wet. When much water immediately flows out of the flower pot (through the holes in the bottom), the compost does not get soaking wet. You better immerse the flower pot with compost and roots in a big bucket filled with water. Take the flower pot out of the water after about 30 minutes.
Wait about 24 hours to let water flow out of the flower pot. The flower pot with chicory roots can be put in the dark again.
Photo of the harvest. Many small heads have grown on the roots. All heads have been “picked” and are on the left side on the photo above. Total weight is 250 grams. On the right side of the photo there is a “normal” head to compare the sizes.
Yes, you can grow heads twice on the same roots when breaking off the witloof heads. But the second time, the heads grow slower and the heads are smaller. This is because the “heart” has been broken or cut away at the first harvest.
Instead of breaking off, you can cut the witloof head a few centimeters (about 1 inch) above the root. At some species (e.g. Videna) you easily cut a piece of the root then. On such a root, no big witloof head can grow on.
At other species (e.g. Oranjeband) you cut through the witloof leaves then. After cutting off the witloof leaves, the Chicory root looks the same as after cutting long green leaves the first time. On such a root, a big witloof head can grow again. See below.
Put elastic bands around the heads. To prevent falling apart of the heads after cutting. Then cut off the heads about 1 inch above the roots. See photos above.
You can cut off without an elastic band around the heads. Hold the witloof head in your hand during cutting to prevent falling apart. Carefully lay the cut witloof head (witloof leaves) in a tray.
This harvest is 1150 grams.
Chicory roots after cutting off the heads. On each root there are many short leaves. Remove the dish. Pour much cold water in the pot to moisten the compost.
(note: on the right photo, the flower pot has turned a half turn).
As an experiment short leaves have been broken away or cut shorter at some roots. In the flower pot there are now roots with many or few, short or long leaves.
Some heads have been cut above the roots. All heads are tight. Only the 3 heads on the right photo are “loose” a little.
There are no (or only a few) brown short leaves visible on the roots that had all short leaves before growing. So breaking away short leaves from the outside is not really necessary.
A third time (?)
The same chicory roots with witloof heads after 8 weeks of growing in the dark. The heads have been broken off, because this is the last harvest. Harvest is 670 grams.
Some witloof heads of the 2nd or 3rd harvest can be some loose. Most of the time that is no problem.
These witloof heads don’t look healty. There are brown, sticky, short outer leaves. On the heads you see spots.
Some broken off witloof heads have brown sticky short leaves. On the heads you see spots.
Remark 2 (cutting short leaves):
Remark 3 (Species):
O)# Bad roots (rotten) during growing
Sometimes there are one or more bad chicory roots in a flower pot. See the photo above, at the left side. Such a root and head often stink.
The head is “loose” on the root. You can easy check the root by pushing gently against the side of a head.
Remove this bad root and fill the hole with compost.
A photo of a bad root cut into 2 pieces. The head is “loose” and the root has a brown coloured inside.
Sometimes your own grown chicory tastes more bitter than expected. The bitter taste is concentrated in the “core” of the chicory head, the lower part of the head. You can cut away this part of the head. Or add milk at the cooking water.
Chicory heads grown at higher temperature, 64 to 68 F (18 to 20 C) taste more bitter than grown at lower temperature, 50 to 59 F (ca 10 – 15 C).
Q)# Growing in garden earth
You can fill a flower pot with garden earth instaed of compost. And put chicory roots in it.
On this photo you see that heads even grow on small chicory roots. The grew for 8 weeks at 15 C (59 F). Much slower than “normal” heads. They did not grow in pitch dark.
You can grow good witloof heads in a small flower pot with few chicory roots.
S)# Storing chicory roots
Chicory plants in your garden soil can withstand frosty nights. But they do suffer from severe frost. So harvest the plants not too late.
When you have taken many chicory roots out of the garden, you better not use all roots for witloof forcing. Because then you get too many heads in one time. You better store the roots before forcing. Below 2 storage methods:
- Put the roots in flower pots with compost. Store the flower pot with roots dark and cool. This is a very easy and useful method.
- Lay roots between moist paper in a tray with plastic foil over the tray. Store the tray in a cold room or in a refrigerator. After storage, put the roots in a flower pot with compost. This method requires much more work.
S1) Storage in a flower pot with compost (cold and dark)
S1a) Put roots in a flower pot with compost and store cold.
- Execute all actions as described at E)# to I)#. So cutting leaves and roots, remove some outer leaves, put in flower pot with compost, add water and put in a dark area.
- Put the whole (flower pot with roots in a dark area) on a cold, frost-proof room. For example outside under a roof or under a garden table so it is stored in a dry place.
- At severe frost, put the whole in a frost-proof room (shed or barn). Or cover the whole under the roof or the table with a blanket or a sail cloth.
- At non freezing weather, put the whole back on its original place outside or remove the blanket or sail cloth.
In this way, roots are in a cold dark area and heads will grow very slowly.
S1b) Growing witloof heads
When you want to grow heads, put the flower pot with roots in a dark room at about 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F).
These Chicory roots were stored in a flower pot at a dark, cold area.
These Chicory roots were stored for 17 days, outside under a roof, at 1 to 7 C (34 to 45 F). On the leftside pot there was another flower pot (upside down) and dish. The right side pot was in a cardboard dark place.
The left side pot:
- Some outer leaves were brown.
- Some “inner leaves” are brown or black.
- The inner leaves have grown a little and have turned to green.
- Only from one root (the root at the back on the photo above), black small leaves have been removed.
The right side pot:
- Some outer leaves are brown.
- Most inner leaves have grown and turned into light green.
After this storage, each pot with Chicory roots has been put in the “original” dark area in a room at about 15 C (59 F) to grow heads on as described at I)#.
I only made a photo of the witloof heads grown in this dark area: an “upside down flower pot with dish on”. There are no or little leaves with brown spots.
On the other roots (in a black cardboard area), good witloof heads have grown too.
S2) Storing between moist paper, cold
This storage requires more work.
S2a) Washing roots
- Cut foliage and a part of the roots as described at E)# and F)#.
- Wash the roots with short leaves in a bucket filled with cold tap water.
- Remove some short leaves, starting from the outher side as described at G)#. Break off many or few leaves. On all roots good, normal witloof heads will grow.
- Wash the roots with short leaves (2nd time) in a bucket filled with fresh cold tap water.
S2b) Storing roots between moist paper
- Lay washed roots in a tray between moist kitchen paper. Put plastic foil over the tray. With a narrow air opening.
- Put the whole in a refrigerator or in a cold room, for example outside under a roof or under a plastic garden table.
- At severe frost put the whole in a frost-proof room.
- Regularly check if kitchen paper is moist. That can easily be done through the air opening. When (too) dry, remove plastic, spray water on and put on plastic again.
S2c) Putting chicory roots (from moist kitchen paper) in compost
- These roots have been stored in a refrigerator for 7 days and then outside under a roof between 1 and 7 C (34 and 45 F) for 15 days.
- Some roots have brown outer leaves.
- Inner leaves have grown and coloured to light green.
- These roots have been stored under a roof outside at a temperature between 1 and 7 C (34 and 45 F) for 17 days.
- Some roots have brown “inner leaves”.
- Inner leaves have grown and coloured to light green.
- At all roots, shorten the leaves. Use a sharp knife and a wooden board.
- Put the roots in flower pots with compost and add much water as described at H)#.
- After 24 hours, dry sand has been put on the compost layer.
- Then each flower pot has been put in a dark place (cardboard dark area) as described at I)#.
- These heads have grown in 46 days between 15 and 18 C (59 and 64 F).
- The big heads have been harvested, more than 1 kilogram.
- The small heads grow further in the dark area.
S3) Overall results
Both storage methods give good witloof heads.
Cold storage in flower pots with compost is much easier than washing and cold storing in moist paper.
T)# Hermans witloof and cracks in the chicory roots
T1) Witloof results of Herman (see comments under this post)
Herman, a Canadian gardner, wrote a comment on this post. And he sent me this photo by mail. I replied his comment as you can read below.
T2) Crack in a chicory root
A chicory root kan have a crack.
Or a root can look like this.
At these roots break off many small leaves. Then clean the root and the leaves with a soft brush under running tap water.
On both roots, good witloof heads have grown.
V)# Forcing witloof with earth coverage (in flower pot).
More witloof forcing with earth coverage;