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Q: HOW AND WHEN DOES A HOME GARDNER KNOW TO HARVEST BELGIAN EDIVE. ( Answered 1 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: kevsdeal-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 20 Oct 2002 08:09 PDT
Expires: 19 Nov 2002 07:09 PST
Question ID: 85465
Answered By: blinkwilliams-ga on 20 Oct 2002 09:27 PDT
Rated:1 out of 5 stars
Hello and thanks for the question.

Because the Belgian endive is a biannual plant there are two phases to
its growing cycle.  During the first phase the seeds are planted in
the late spring or early summer. The plant grows through the summer
and into the autumn.  During this period none of the leaves from the
plant should be harvested.

A very helpful article on this subject is "Belgian Endive Provides
Winter Fare" by Lee Reich which can be found at:


According to this website and several others, the outdoor growth
period should take about three to four months.  The foliage that
results from the outdoor growing period is similar to that of Romaine
lettuce.  The roots of the endives should be dug up before the ground
freezes in the autumn.

As to how the roots should be harvested, Reich's article states,
"Before the ground freezes solid in autumn, dig the roots and save for
forcing those that are straight and an inch or two thick at their
tops. With a sharp knife, cut off any side roots, cut the leafy tops
to within an inch of the crowns, and shorten each root to a manageable
length of about eight inches."  The edible head will grow from the top
of the root once the endives are "forced" inside.

The next step involves placing the roots in a cold storage area.  The
article suggests placing the roots in a perforated plastic bag in the
refrigerator.  According to another website
"Cold storage, whether in the field or in cold storage rooms, is
needed to vernalize the tissue. Without proper vernalization, forcing
at raised temperatures will be erratic."

While in cold storage, remove a few roots at a time and prepare them
for forcing.  The endives are "forced" by placing them in a deep
flower pot or cardboard box. According to the article cited above:
"Pack the roots upright into the container, sifting well-drained
garden soil, sand, or new or used potting soil into the spaces between
the roots. Water thoroughly."

For best results keep the leaves of the endive in the dark and "and
keep the growing heads tight by covering the crowns of the plants with
about eight inches of dry sand, soil, or sawdust."  After about three
or four weeks (some websites say 20-28 days) the tips of the leafy
heads will appear through the top layer. At this point you can take
the covering off and harvest the heads by snapping them from the

Hope that helps!  The links below contain further information on
growing and harvesting Belgian endives.


Lifewise - "Belgian Endive Provides Winter Fare" by Lee Reich

University of California – I also found this page very helpful

Endive World – Contains an informative FAQ

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries – Government of British

Search Strategy

belgian endive harvest
belgian endive forcing
belgian endive cold storage
belgian endive growing

Best of Luck!


Clarification of Answer by blinkwilliams-ga on 21 Oct 2002 07:04 PDT
Dear kevsdeal-ga,

Sorry if I was too technical in my answer.  Unfortunately, growing
Belgian endives involves quite a complicated procedure and I was
trying to convey that procedure step-by-step in my answer.  Thanks to
Aceresearcher-ga for providing a further discussion of what is
involved in "forcing.".

Unfortunately the root and the leaves that result from the first phase
of growing are not really edible and getting the actual endive to grow
takes a decent amount of time and effort (i.e. growing the roots in a
dark environment for several weeks).

Please let me know if I can make any additional clarifications and I
will be happy to do so.

Note: It turns out that the Belgian endive was discovered by a
mistake.  A farmer in Belgium who was using the root (chicory) as a
coffee substitute discarded one of the roots in the dirt of a dark
shed and forgot about them.  After few weeks, he came back to find the
white heads of the endive peaking out of the ground and was pleased
with the results! Now, the procedure of "forcing" (forcing the edible,
white endive to grow after harvesting the root) is an attempt to
replicate this farmer's "mistake".  No wonder it's so hard to do!

Best of luck and do not hesitate to ask for additional clarification
if needed.


Request for Answer Clarification by kevsdeal-ga on 22 Oct 2002 04:55 PDT
How would you force it?  could you tell me how you would do it, it is
only half a dozen plants


Clarification of Answer by blinkwilliams-ga on 22 Oct 2002 07:14 PDT
Hi Kevsdeal-ga,

Here's how I would go about forcing the half a dozen roots:

1. Dig up the roots.  Cut off any side roots and cut off about 90% of
the leaves at the top, leaving just about an half-inch of leaves above
the root. The root should be about 8 inches long.

2. Place the roots upright in a large flower pot or wooden box. With
only about 6 roots you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a flower
pot that is large enough to hold all 6.

3. Fill in between the roots with potting soil and then water
thoroughly. Fill in the dirt so that it covers the roots but leave the
"crown" or very top of the root uncovered. Then place an 8 inch layer
of sawdust or sand on top of the soil covering the top of the roots.

4. Now place the flower pot or wooden box in a cool, dark place, maybe
your basement or garage. Periodically check to make sure that the soil
around the roots is moist.

5. In three to four weeks the white tip of the endive should poke out
through the sand or sawdust covering.  That is when you know your
endives are ready for harvesting. Remove the sand or sawdust covering
and harvest your endive by snapping them off the roots.

That is how I would go about growing and harvesting half a dozen

Best of Good luck!


Request for Answer Clarification by kevsdeal-ga on 23 Oct 2002 05:23 PDT
Thanks, this newest round makes it sound very simple!!  I would change
your rating but dont know how.

 Is the rerigerator too cold or too dark?  I have an extra one.

thanks for your help.

Clarification of Answer by blinkwilliams-ga on 23 Oct 2002 07:32 PDT
I think a refrigerator would be too cold.  The temperature at which
you grow the endives should be around 60 degrees F. Refrigerators are
substantially cooler than that.  I think the best temperature would be
in a basement, attic or garage.

Good luck and happy growing!


Request for Answer Clarification by kevsdeal-ga on 02 Nov 2002 07:25 PST
can I cover with pete moss instead of sawdust or sand?

Clarification of Answer by blinkwilliams-ga on 02 Nov 2002 11:56 PST
I would recommend sand or sawdust over peat moss. You want the top
layer to be fairly dry.  Peat moss is usually quite moist. Using sand
or saw dust will ensure that the top layer remains dry. One site
recommends "covering the crowns of the plants with about eight inches
of dry sand, soil, or sawdust."


kevsdeal-ga rated this answer:1 out of 5 stars
This does not help because it is too technical, when can I take it out
of the ground and eat it, do I eat the root, the above ground stuff,
what?  I have no clue what forcing is or whatever, can someone explain
in plain english

From: aceresearcher-ga on 20 Oct 2002 17:47 PDT
"Forcing" is the gardener's term for persuading an outdoor plant to
grow and/or bloom indoors. Plants have evolved to recognize what
season it is by the outdoor day and night temperatures, as well as
amounts of moisture. The gardener tricks the plant into thinking it's
time to grow again by manipulating aspects of the indoor environment
such as temperature, amount of light received in a 24-hour period, and
amount of moisture received. When the gardener tricks a plant in this
way, they have "forced" it to grow/bloom.

Belgian endive (a.k.a "Witloof Chicory") is a biennial, which means
that in the first year, the plant grows and develops a good root
system, but does not develop blossoms or seed pods. The second year,
the plant will develop blossoms and seeds. In order to get a biennial
to flourish, you will need to not harvest any the first year (yes, the
delay is annoying, isn't it?).

"Witloof Chicory: A New Vegetable Crop in the United States", by
Kenneth A. Corey, David J. Marchant, and Lester F. Whitney (1990):
"During the first year of growth, the plant develops a deep taproot
and produces a rosette of leaves on a short stem. Following a period
of cold exposure, the plant develops a floral meristem. Commercial
production involves harvesting the plant following the attainment of a
proper stage of maturity of the root, followed by floral bud induction
(cold storage) and then an accelerated but controlled development of
the floral axis and surrounding basal leaves in the dark (forcing).
The end product of forcing is a chicon (Fig. 1), a small white head of
leaves ringed with regions of yellow-green...
Forcing is the production phase with high value added and may be
conducted using hydroponic methods or by conventional methods whereby
a solid medium is used. Since the development and commercial
application of hydroponic forcing methods has become a widespread
means of producing this crop on a large scale, we have chosen to
describe it here in more detail."

The procedure described by blinkwilliams above is for shortening the
wait time by tricking the endive plants into thinking the second year
is here already, so it will produce the heads that you can eat. The
reason the procedure talks about covering the endive with an 8-inch
layer is that, for best taste and results, the endive should not be
exposed to light while it is growing.

"Belgian Endive: Because they're protected from light as they grow,
Belgian endive's small, smooth, slender heads are almost white in
color. The flavor is strong and pleasantly bitter. If the leaves are
more green than white, it is likely to be very bitter."

So, what the documents whose links appear above are saying is that you
need to have a root cellar or other contained system where you can
manipulate the environment to produce good endive; unfortunately, you
can't just strew the seeds in the ground and harvest later in the
season the way you can with many types of lettuce.

I found a Communications For A Sustainable Future's Q&A forum, with
posting requesting information about growing endive, and CSF's Adam
Honigman's response to the question. It lists several other good web

Since you've already gotten through the taproot development stage, you
are ready for the harvestin and forcing stages. However, if you are a
novice gardener, this may all seem very daunting (it is to ME, and I
have been gardening for several years now!).

If it is more than you are able or willing to take on right now, you
may want to try advertising in local daily and weekly newspapers for
someone who has the facilities to see if they would take it from here
in exchange for half of the endive crop.

Otherwise, all the links listed here should be able to walk you
through the harvesting and forcing process.

If there is anything on this page or in any of the linked pages that
you do not understand and you would like further clarification, please
post a clarification request and I will do my best to help you out.

I hope this information will be of assistance to you!

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