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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Endive

Endive, also called escarole, is a nutritious salad plant that is grown in much the same way that lettuce is grown. Seed is usually planted in early spring directly in the garden, but it can also be started indoors and transplanted into the garden in early spring. Mild frosts are not a problem for endive.

Endive is often grown for a fall crop, rather than being planted in spring for an early summer crop. For a fall planting, the seed must be started in mid summer, and it may be easier to start seed indoors at this time, rather than contend with the hot dry conditions out in the garden at this time of year. Place the plant slightly deeper than it grew in the pot when transplanting it outside. A light mulch will help to provide the cool moist conditions that the plant appreciates.

Like lettuce, few diseases or insect pests will be a problem with endive. Slugs or snails may do some minor damage to the leaves, but seldom do much harm. If they are a problem, a light dusting of diatomaceous earth on the soil around the plant will effectively (and organically) repel or eliminate them.

Endive leaves have a somewhat bitter taste, and blanching is often used to reduce this harshness. There are several ways to do this. In all cases, don't start until the plant has reached, or nearly reached, its full size. The outer leaves may be tied tightly in place to cover the inner leaves. With this method, the outer leaves will be discarded and the inner leaves will be white and sweet tasting. Another technique is to dig up the entire plant, place it in a pot and move it into a cool dark basement. Cover the plant if windows or other light sources will expose it to light. Perhaps the easiest method is to just leave the plant out in the garden and cover it with an overturned pot. The pot (or other container) should be large enough so that it will not be touching the leaves. If there are drainage holes, they can be taped shut to exclude light.

After about three weeks of blanching, the plant will be ready for harvest. While blanching does make the leaves much milder and sweeter tasting, it will also reduce the nutritional value of the leaves, compared to the dark green, unblanched leaves. It is worth trying a few plants unblanched to see how much their bitterness bothers you. They may be too strong tasting to enjoy alone, but a few leaves mixed into a tossed salad may add a pleasing contrast to other bland ingredients. If salad dressing is used, endive's bitterness may not be noticeable. Unblanched endive can also be added to soup and stews with good results.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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