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Chicory - Cichorium intybus

Chicory - Cichorium intybus

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Chicory is a very interesting salad for the period in which it grows, for its crunchy consistency and for the bitter taste that it adds to other vegetables. It is rich in virtues also from the organoleptic point of view and can therefore be a good idea to try to cultivate it in our plot.
The most widespread species is Cichorium intybus, which can be annual, biennial or perennial. The leaves of Cichorium intybus are of decreasing size (larger than those below and smaller than the higher ones), and the flowers are light blue and grouped in axillary or terminal heads. The fruits are sand-colored achenes, and are often mistaken for seeds. Only one seed is contained within each achenum. Many different species are part of this genus of plants, among which the best known are the radicchio with green or red leaves, the chicory with leaves, roots and shoots and finally the chicory and the radicchio to be forced.

Cultivation of chicory

The Cichorium intybus is a very resistant plant, in fact it is adopted in both cold and high temperatures. The soil must be prepared with a deep dig, during which it is advisable to bury about 2 kg of manure per square meter of cultivated land. Before sowing it is also useful to carry out a good mineral fertilization, while during the growth 10/15 grams of calcium nitrate can be distributed per square meter.


Type of plant

Deciduous tree
Height at maturity From 15 to 60 cm
Ease of cultivation Very easy
Water needs Middle-low
Growth From normal to slow depending on the period
Rusticitа Medium-high
Multiplication Seed, replanting of the roots
Distance between rows 15 cm
Distance on the row 15 cm
Exposure Sun
Ground Not demanding, not too clayey or stony. Well seasoned fertilizer
Germination: days, minimum temperature 7-10 / 5 ° C
Depth of sowing 5 mm


The multiplication takes place by seed, and the sowing must be carried out in different periods depending on the variety. The cutting varieties can be sown in all periods of the year, except winter, those from root from April / May to August, while those to be forced from mid-June to late August.
The sowing must take place in broadcaster or in rows distant from each other about half a meter, at a later time the plants must be thinned out by distancing them by about 20 cm. The chicories to be forced, however, are usually sown in seedbeds and the seedlings must be transplanted after 40 days at a distance of about 25 cm from each other.


Forcing is a technique that allows for the formation of compact and crispy leaves. Sowing takes place in spring, so in autumn there are small plants but provided with a very robust root system. With a knife, the roots are detached and placed in a box on top of a layer of manure of about 25 cm and covered with wet soil. After about a month, the tufts of white leaves appear on the upper part of the roots. A typical chicory to be forced is that of "brussels".

Characteristics of chicory

The name chicory actually identifies a rather broad botanical genus, belonging to the Asteraceae family. From this genus, 6 to 9 species are part of which two are the base of cultivated salads. We should also remember the typically Italian varieties that belong to the North-East, generally identified with the name of radicchi.
It is generally a herbaceous plant endemic to Europe, Asia and Africa. The species is very common along the edges of roads or in fields left to fallow, where it is noted for its beautiful flowers of an intense blue.
Its general appearance is very similar to that of lettuce, but cultivation is considerably simpler, although growth is generally slower.
The varieties are distinguished on the basis of the color of the leaves, at the time of ripening and the way of harvesting (from tuft or from cutting). It should also be pointed out that there are numerous varieties whose greatest value lies in the root, an important source of inulin. This same root, roasted and ground, is still used today as a coffee substitute.

History of chicory

Wild chicory has been consumed since ancient times and evidence has been found of it as a salad at the Egyptian civilization. Among Greeks and Romans, however, the root was more appreciated: it was cooked on the grill and was particularly taken into account for its digestive qualities. They were also attributed medicinal qualities, as a powerful purifier, especially in herbal teas and infusions.
In the Middle Ages it was very common in the vegetable gardens inside the castle walls and near the convents. It is probably in this context that we began to select the best varieties, characterized by larger leaves and a less bitter taste. Since the Renaissance, leaves have been consumed mainly in salads. In the southern regions they were almost always used from raw, in the North it was instead more common to cook them, using them both as a side dish and as a condiment for first or soups.
At the end of the eighteenth century, in conjunction with some blockades of the imports imposed by the English to Napoleon, the habit of tower making the roots to obtain an inexpensive coffee was also widespread, a habit that remained with the population until the end of the Second World War.

Climate and exposure

The cultivated chicories have the peculiarity of resisting very well at low temperatures and also due to the lack of rain. For winter cultivation it is highly recommended a sunny position. From spring onwards, however, it also enjoys slightly more protected exposures.


They are extremely adaptable plants and grow well in a wide variety of soils. Only those characterized by an excessive presence of pebbles or those that are extremely clayey and compact are to be avoided, to the point of being of extreme obstacle to the drainage of the waters. In the latter case, dangerous rots could occur at the root or collar level and it is therefore good, before implantation, to work to improve both drainage and weaving.

Soil tillage

Chicories are characterized by voluminous roots, which grow vigorously above all downwards. To obtain good results it is therefore essential to work the area very carefully, digging or plowing at least up to 40 cm deep, breaking down the clods well and incorporating good quantities of very seasoned organic soil conditioner.
It is also important to make sure that the surface layer is perfectly refined. The seeds of chicory are in fact very small and need a well-kept bed to germinate and root.


The need for nitrogen for chicory is very limited. On the contrary we can say that they are particularly sensitive to the presence of compost or manure that are not perfectly ripe. It is therefore important, before distributing them to the area, to ensure that they are perfectly decomposed and, in particular for manure, that the straw is indistinguishable from dejections. Generally enough, from 2 to 4 quintals of product per 100 square meters of crop, for the sole purpose of improving the texture of the soil. The ideal would be to distribute them before the previous cultivation so that they are well incorporated and further disintegrated.


Chicory is not very demanding in terms of irrigation. During winter and spring it is good to make sure that the soil never gets completely dry. From the spring to the middle of autumn it will water more, but it is advisable to prepare a thick mulch based on straw, leaves or bunches so that interventions are reduced and the substrate remains fresh for longer. It is essential to avoid wetting the leaves as it is the main cause of cryptogams. The ideal is to always set up irrigation systems with dripline or with a porous tube.


The technique used for sowing varies greatly depending on the chosen variety.
Cutting chicory are the most resistant varieties to both low and high temperatures. You can proceed throughout the year, avoiding, in the North, only the months of December and January. It is sown directly in the house, in rows or in broadcaster. The rows should be spaced 15 cm apart, leaving one seed every 5. 20 g of seed per 100 square meters of crop are generally sufficient.
Once the plants reach 10 cm in height, they will be thinning, leaving about 15 cm between one individual and another.
Chicory from the head is a very large group that includes both green leaf varieties, more spring-summer varieties, and red leaf varieties, typically winter. The first are sown from March to October, the others in mid-summer. You can choose to do it in a seedbed or directly in your home. The first option saves a little seed. The spacing between and in the rows must be traced back to what is done for cutting chicory.
Root chicory these varieties should be sown directly in the field as the transplant could severely damage the taproot. Depending on the cultivar we proceed at the end of winter (for example for the chicory of Brussels) or for the whole spring (chicory of Magdeburg).
In any case, for a family vegetable garden, it is always advisable to sow seeds every 15 days so as to always have the product ready for harvest and avoid waste.


From cutting

from cespo

from roots


From February to November (in the South all year round)

Green leaf

With red leaf

From March to August, depending on the variety

From March to October

June July
About two to three months after sowing, up to 5 -6 times a year

About two or three months later

From October-November until February-March

From autumn to spring

Crop care

These vegetables should be followed with a certain regularity. It is essential to carry out frequent hoeing and weeding both to make the soil more airy and permeable and to prevent weeds from arising. However, one must be very careful near the foot because the superficial roots are easily damaged and could then be the cause of pathogen penetration.


Some varieties, in particular radicchio, need to be bleached to become softer and less bitter. Proceed to the end of autumn by removing the plants with the help of a pitchfork. They must then be cleaned by removing all the soil (which could cause rotting). Leaves and roots should be blunted. Then they are inserted, side by side, in a wooden box filled with a mixture of soil and sand, then slightly dampened. They should be placed in a dark and gently heated room for about ten days.


Like all salads, it should be consumed as quickly as possible. It is however possible to keep it in the fridge for up to five days in the vegetable compartment.

Approaches and partnerships

Chicories are good in the company of many other vegetables. The ideal is to place them in the vicinity of tomatoes, beans, lettuces and carrots. Their cultivation can be repeated several times in the same plot without encountering serious problems.


The leaves are generally attacked by aphids, snails and snails, while the larvae of beetles and the mole cricket feed on the roots. These plants in particular climatic conditions can be affected by both root and leaf rot, avoid spraying the plants during the hottest hours and prefer loose soil, in case of attack it is advisable to treat the plants with sulfur-based products .
Among the major enemies of this vegetable we include the snails, the beetle, the mole cricket, the aphids and the noctuids.
Downy mildew is very dangerous, manifested by yellowing and bleached spots. Powdery mildew and gray mold are also quite frequent.

Chicory - Cichorium intybus: Variety

The varieties are really many. Among those with green heads we can cite the chicory of Brussels, the Catalonia of Brindisi and the Venetian one, from which the puntarelle and the riccia of Pancalieri are obtained. Very well known is also the sugar loaf, extremely crunchy and sweet, which does not need bleaching.
The radicchio are very numerous: from Verona, Treviso, Chioggia and Castelfranco.
  • Cichorium intybus

    Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant present all over the world that can reach a height of one meter and

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