Dormantroots are not widely available commercially, so you will probably have to raise plants from seed. This is not at all difficult, if you wait until the end of late spring before sowing. Seeds sown earlier than this will form very big roots by the time they are lifted the following autumn or winter. These large roots are more liable to bolt, 1 4 or go to seed, without producing chicons. If they do not bolt, they tend to form several small chicons instead of single, large, tight ones.
Before sowing, rake thesurface to a fine tilth. Make the drills 1.5 cm (3/4”) deep, and 30-38 cm (12-15”) apart. If the soil is dry, flood the drills a couple of times with plenty of water. Sow the seeds thinly and firm the soil over the drills afterwards. As soon as the are large enough to handle, thin them to 23-25 cm (9-10”) apart. As with most taproot vegetables, thinnings do not transplant well and they are best put on the heap.
Chicory flowers are bright blue and daisy-like, but it is unlikely you willsee them, unless you are allowing your plants to set seed, (below)
Varieties such as Sugar Loaf, which are grown for unblanched salading should be started later in the season, say through early and mid-summer, so they will be ready when there are few lettuces to be had, in late autumn and early winter. Otherwise the sowing procedure is the same as above.
Very little is needed in the way of cultivation, as chicory is a tough, strong grower, and can look after itself. Because it is deep-rooting, watering is unnecessary except in severe droughts. If the soil has been well manured before- 1 2 3 hand, no additional feeding should be necessary, either. Vigorous growth will smother many of the smaller, but hoe if weeds become a problem. Alternatively, mulch with clean, dry straw in mid-summer, to keep weeds down.
You may find the occasional plant attempting to flower. If this happens, cut out the flowering stems at ground level.
The Sugar Loaf variety is sometimes troubled, in the seedling stages, by attack from birds, and some netting may be necessary. Once the plants get going. The birds find them less attractive, and they are usually left alone.
A bonus crop may be taken from some varieties by cooking the leaves like, or using them fresh as green salading. During the summer, either take a few leaves from a number of plan’s, in order not to weaken any one of them, or reserve certain plants for this purpose.
Preparation for forcing
Chicory roots are normally lifted in autumn and -’’her stored in boxes indoors, or heeled in the ground until they are needed for forcing. Forcing can begin in early autumn for chicons before Christmas, and can continue through late winter—Kormato is !he best variety for early forcing Some people leave the roots in the soil, undisturbed, until needed, but in mild weather the roots may begin sprouting prematurely.
When lifting, remember that the quality of the chicons produced is directly related to the quality of the roots. Select only strong-growing, healthy roots and consign the rest to the compost heap. Roots with a crown diameter of 2.5-5 cm (1-2”) are best. Any roots you leave in the soil will complete their perennial life cycle and produce flowering stems the following spring. This is only useful if you plan to save seed; otherwise, clear the site completely of all chicory roots so it can be used for another crop.
If you are heeling in the roots, lift them from early to late autumn. Pack them tightly into a deep trench, and cover the plants with enough soil or clean straw to keep the frost off. You need not trim the roots or foliage at this stage, and heeling in should be a fairly quick operation. Dig up a few roots at a time, as you need them, from mid-autumn through early spring. Cut off the foliage to within 2.5 cm (1”) of the crown. Leave them in a frost proof shed for a week or so, to allow them to dry out. Then trim the root back to 20 cm (8”) and cut off all side roots with a sharp knife, to prepare them finally for forcing. If you have nowhere in your garden to heel the plants in, store them in boxes. Lift and select the roots as for heeling in; late autumn is the best time to do this. Prepare them completely by trimming 4. back the foliage and removing all sideshoots. Pack the roots horizontally in boxes containing moist sand; the moisture prevents them drying out. They can be packed quite close together. Store the boxes in a cool, dry place. Temperature is most important during storage, because if it is too warm the roots may start producing shoots. On the other hand, if it is frosty the roots may be killed; ideally, the temperature should be a couple of degrees above freezing.