Growing Chicory, also Witloof, Belgian endive

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11 May 15 Sylvia Payze (South Africa - Summer rainfall climate)
Hello, I bought Belgian Endive seeds whilst in Germany, and want to start growing them. I don't think they will be ready for June, as the whole process seems to take quite long, but when looking at the above instructions, I have no idea what is meant by Forcing and Blanching. Could yopu please write on how to grow Chicoree / Endive from seeds, and what to do about keeping out the sun to prevent bittering. Kind regards, Sylvia
02 Sep 15 Willem Verbruggen (United Kingdom - warm/temperate climate)
Hello Sylvia, I hope you were able to grow some witloof. In case you still need some advice, a brief discription for the growing of witloof. Please don't mind my bad writing and grammitcal errors. The growing of witloof happens in three main stages/phases. Phase one is the root growing process in the field. The seconde Phase is the growing of the crop/endive itself/ also called forcery (happens at home) and the last Phase is the growing of the seeds. The rootgrowing starts (in Belgium) early May with the sowing of the seeds in rows (distance between rows 20-25cm, distance between seeds 4-6cm). The soil must be prepared deep enough, fine, crumbly, airy and without weeds. After a few days/weeks , depending on the weather , the seed starts to germinate. You have to aim 25 plants per square meter. A little more if your soil is ritch on nitrogen. The only thing you have to do then is keeping the parcel weedfree and checking for diseases/fungi. In oktober/november, when the leaves start to turn Brown and before it starts to freeze, the roots are harvested. The leaves are cut about 3cm above the root and the root is shortened to 20cm. After the cleaning of the roots they are put to rest for a few days/weeks in a refrigarator with temp around 3°c. They van also be rested in a very dry environment. This way the plant reaches a resting state. After a few days /weeks the roots are moistened and embedded with 20 cm of covering soil 20cm (or without depending on the race of witloof). When embedded in a well in a shed or barn you have to cover them with a vaper permeabel cloth. If embedded in a welk in open air you lay an insulator (straw, dry leaves) before you cover it with a cloth. You will also need to cover it from rain. (Little shelter) From there on soil temperature, soil humidity and air temperature are very important. Traditional the farmer forces (forcery) the conditions to become idealy for the growth of the endives with heating and humidifiers. If the bottem temperature is high enough (between 10 to 20°c) you can try to grow endives without a heating system. Generaly in early spring you can use the natural warming of the earth to grow the endives. Typically it takes 21 days to grow the crops (normal conditions). Know that in winter (soil below 10°c) when using a heating/humidifiing system, you create a better and more constant envirenmont for the growth of endives, resulting in a better quality and taste. After the forcing you can select your best root/crop to collect seeds From. (Don't use hybrid races) You just keep it away From frost and comes spring you plant it in a field. It becomes a bush (1,5m) with lightblue flowers in august. Bee's do their magic and in september you can harvested and dry the seeds. I hope this helped you on your way a bit? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or doubts. I'll try to answer them. Is witloof really that hard to find in SA and Australië? It's one of my "dreams" to try and cultivate traditional witloof in Australia but I really wouldn't know how and where to begin.. I hope you have a lot of fun farming. Greetings From Belgium, Willem Verbruggen
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