Growing Belgian Endive and Why It’s Awesome!

Last Updated on October 8, 2022 by Real Men Sow

Growing Belgian Endive can be done in two different stages: One for the roots and another for the yellow and white leaves (head). It can produce crunchy salads all winter long if you have enough roots. Belgian endive is well-known for its pleasant bitter taste that can be enjoyed raw or cooked

Belgian endive is a type of chicory grown for its edible leaves and roots. The plant is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes plants such as daisies, sunflowers, and lettuce. Belgian endive is a perennial plant that grows about two feet tall and has a rosette shape. The leaves are smooth and slightly toothed, and they are a deep green colour. The plant produces white flowers that bloom in the spring. The flowers are followed by small, green fruits that ripen in the summer.

Steps in Growing Belgian Endive

Belgian endive is an excellent weather crop that is usually grown in the spring or fall. The plants are started from seed in early spring and transplanted to the garden in late spring.

Step 1: Plant Endive Seedlings

Plant them in spring (early to mid- June for most places), in rich soil. Two rows per 30 in. (.76 m) bed, 6 in. (15 cm) apart. The plants will eventually grow taller and produce lush green leaves.

Step 2: Remove the Roots

After 110 to 130 days, gently remove the roots using a digging fork. Be careful not to damage or break them. These roots are the “business end” and storehouse of energy during the second phase.

Step 3: Leaves Trimming

Trim the leaves to a depth of about 2 cm (2-4 cm). Then add the leaves to your nitrogen-hungry compost pile.

Step 4: Root Reduction

Reduce the roots to a uniform length, 6-8 inches (15-20cm).

Step 5: Growing the Head

Place the roots upright into a bucket/pail. Fill in any sand that you have, or with loose sandy soil, if not. You can also use regular soil or peat, but it is not easy to fill in the gaps. Place pails in the coolest place possible.

Step 6: Keeping the Light Out

It is better to have the bucket too wet than too dry. Cover the bucket to keep light out. This is what keeps the foliage white. New growth will start to emerge in a matter of days.

Step 7: Harvesting

Keep an eye on your bucket. You should be able to cut your first endive leaf within three weeks of stage 6. You may be able to get another harvest if you start with thick roots. The flavor of your endives will not change if they don’t stay together in a conical shape.

Tips for Growing Belgian Endive 

  • The soil should be kept moist as a sponge.
  • You can either grow in full sunlight or in shade during the afternoon in warmer regions.
  • After approximately 80 days, you can start the forcing and blanching process.

General Care for Growing Belgian Endive in Summer

These are like dandelions so they can grow and thrive in all soils. As long as there are tap roots, drought isn’t always a problem. Rich soil can lead to multiple, branched roots which is not a good idea. Keep the soil weeded, and maybe mulched with straw, but I prefer open soil because it allows for plants to dry between rainstorms. 

The seedlings were thinned to 6 inches apart. However, you can see that some weeds and plants have been closely planted. Although this didn’t seem to have any effect on my plant vigor or quality, I could have been more careful with my weeding in order to let more sunlight reach the plants. To allow for massive foliar growth, it is ideal that rows are spaced between each other at 24 to 36 inches.

General Care for Growing Belgian Endive in Late autumn

Dig the roots right before the hard frost. This is usually around Halloween, but can be as late as mid-November. You can trim the tips of the roots to make them fit in the container. However, the tops should be the same height.

A forcing container can be any container deep, such as a 5 gallon nursery container, a baking bucket, an orange Home Depot bucket or a clay long-tom. Trim your roots if they are branched. A double root is fine. The crown should be cut off. Next, place the roots shoulder to shoulder in your container. You can use vermiculite, sharp sand or potting soil. I prefer Pro-Mix commercial pot soil.

The roots should be about one inch above the surface. They won’t look great at this stage but they will soon be magical. Water lightly, roots don’t need much water, but you will need to keep them cool.

General Care for Growing Belgian Endive in Colder Temperatures

Keep your potted roots under the bench in the greenhouse where it is cool (nearly 45 degrees), but you might find that a dark, cold place in your garage or cellar works better. You can wash your roots and wrap them in the newspaper until they are ready to be forced. They will need to be kept cold for a few weeks before they become viable. This is essential for chicon production. Chicons, also known as Belgian Endive or golden white buds in French, are called “chicon”.

People store unwashed roots under burlap bags in a garage or shed. Or in a wooden box with soil inside. The roots require a little bit of cold to be able to believe they have survived winters, and it is time for them to start growing again.

Forcing potted roots in a dark, warm place.

The pots can be forced into the house after a month or more of exposure to cold temperatures (just above freezing is best). But it’s much easier than you think. Endive, unlike bulbs, likes to be heated – but only in complete darkness. Even a crackpot light can make them turn bitter and green. Finding a dark, warm place in your house may be more complicated than you think.

You should keep an eye on the pots as sprouts (Chicons)can quickly emerge. But here’s the best part: the taste and quality of Belgian Endive grown at home made it so worth the effort. Imagine crisp, fresh iceberg lettuce with very little fibre and no bitterness. 

The second crop will yield smaller leaves. The third crop will produce even smaller leaves, but the whole process is worth it. The quality and benefits of Growing Belgian Endive are unmistakable. The cost savings are not the main point. It’s all about the experience.

You don’t have to wait until the last minute to order seeds or plan where you might plant your crop. It’s OK to plant at the edge of your garden since plants require very little work throughout the summer. You might only need to hoe once or twice. Digging the roots and storing them is all that’s required.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.