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Forcing Chicory

Forced Chicory has quite a different flavour to the non-forced salad type leaves. The usual colour is white but you can also force the red varieties to serve as Radicchio for a less bitter flavour.

Prepare the seed bed a few days before sowing and add a general fertilizer. Sow the seed thinly in rows 30cm apart during May or early June. Keep the weeds away from the growing seedlings and thin to 15cm when they are large enough to handle.

The salad leaves which are produced during the summer can be used as they are but leave a few plants for forcing using the following method:

  • Lift the roots in November but discard any which have fanged or are less than 3cm across at the crown
  • Cut the leaves back to 3cm above the crown and cut the roots to about 15cm in length
  • Lay them down in a box of sand and keep in a cool shed  until you are ready to force them

Force a few at a time from November through to March as follows:

  • Plant in a pot of moist compost leaving the crown exposed
  • Cover the pot with a larger pot, blocking up the drainage hole to keep out the light
  • Keep cool and check regularly for 3-4 weeks
  • They are ready with the chicons are about 15cm high
  • Cut just above the crown, water the compost and replace the cover; smaller chicons will be produced for a second harvest

Once harvested keep them in black plastic bags in the fridge to ensure the light doesn’t get to them, this stops them getting too bitter.

Serve them in a salad with tomatoes or a sweet dressing or boil in salted water for 1-15 minutes and serve with a cheese sauce.