Belgian endive is a type of chicory with smooth, white or pale green leaves. It has a mild and slightly bitter flavor. They are often used in salads or sandwiches and are sometimes cooked as well. Belgian endive can be found in many grocery stores but it does supply nutritional benefits that make it worth the effort to grow yourself.
What Does Belgian Endive Taste Like?
Belgian endive is a variety of chicory and is sometimes referred to as French endive, but is not the same plant as escarole, another type of chicory often found in salads. Belgian endive has a milder flavor than both escarole and curly endive. This makes it especially good for sandwiches or even simple roasting with garlic and oil. Belgian endive can be found in many grocery stores but it does supply nutritional benefits that make it worth the effort to grow yourself.
How Many Endives do I Need to Grow?
Belgian endive is one of the most popular greens in Europe, so a 10-by-10-foot plot may be enough if you only plant a few varieties. If you would like to plant a lot of varieties, though, you will probably have better luck with a 20-by-20-foot raised bed.
Preparing the Soil for Endive
Belgian endive likes soil with a pH of 7.0 or higher and prefers a soil temperature between 40 and 70 degrees F. An average garden rake can be used to mix your soil before planting. If your soil is sandy or loamy, put in some compost such as rotted manure if you have it on hand.
Adding fertilizer at the beginning of the growing season is not recommended. Adding it after planting may help, just make sure to follow the directions on the package. Soil should be fertilized once and only once per season because too much fertilizer will burn plant roots. And the plant’s leaves may take on an unattractive whitish cast.
Getting Your Seeds Germinating
Start your endives indoors 5 to 6 weeks before you plan on transplanting them into your garden bed. For seeds that are not treated with fungicides, you may need to treat a small area in your compost pile with fungicide chemicals. For seeds that have been treated, you can plant them directly into your garden bed.
Transplanting Belgian Endive from the Soil
Belgian endive is much faster growing than other greens and will produce a lot of leaves for you in the first season even if it is only one-quarter of an inch tall. You can transplant it from the seedling stage in your garden to the soil or you can remove the seedlings from their pots. Take care to select healthy, young plants.
When planting Belgian endive in your garden bed, make a hole about 1 inch deep and one-half inch wide. Place the roots of the plant into the hole and fill any remaining space with soil or compost. Smooth out any holes that are made in the ground with your fingers or knees immediately after planting.
Growing Belgian Endive
Belgian endive likes full sun and well-drained soil. If you have poor drainage, you can add a layer of mulch to help retain water. Endive plants hate soggy feet so be careful not to overwater them. Soggy roots will cause bitter tasting leaves and mildew will develop on leaves that are too damp.
Belgian endive will do best when grown in a raised bed or in a container that has good drainage. Growing in a pot may help you avoid possible soil-borne diseases.
How to Grow Belgian Endive for Spacers or As Living Fence?
Belgian endive is said to be one of the most useful plants for life around the house. Because it can be used as an edible and space-saving spacer between rows of vegetables. This is best done during early spring before the plants have leaves and their roots are too deep.
You can also grow endive for living fence with a wide row of it over the center of your garden. It will keep coyotes away, but unfortunately will also attract voles.
Belgian Endive Care in Winter
Belgian endives can be stored over winter by wrapping every part of it in well-taped foil or using a plastic bag. The foil or plastic will help protect the roots from frost damage. But you should still plant it in a garden that is not likely to freeze over.
Harvesting Belgian Endive
Belgian endives can be harvested throughout the entire growth season as long as they are given enough time to mature. The plants will produce some of the freshest leaves with a mild, slightly bitter taste if you leave them to mature fully in the garden. As soon as the leaves start to wither and yellow, it is time to harvest.
Harvesting young endive will yield a bitter flavor and the plant will grow much more slowly. You can also harvest Belgian endive just before the first frost in fall, but this will not produce any leaves. It is best to store harvested endives in a paper bag or wrapped in plastic wrap because of their pungent taste.
Belgian Endive Pests and Diseases
Belgian endive is not susceptible to many pests or diseases although it can be bothered by slugs and aphids during the growing season. Endives are also prone to fungal rot in the leaves as well as root rots and leaf spots that are caused by bacteria. Some varieties of endives are more susceptible than others. Check with your vegetable garden store for information about resistant varieties. Low pH soil, over-watering or excessive fertilization may make leaves taste bitter.
Belgian Endive Varieties
Belgian endives fall into two main categories. They are either late maturing or early maturing. The late maturing varieties are best for making chicons. But some can also be used for fresh eating or cooking as greens. You will find that most of the Belgian endives you buy from a store or grow from seed will be of this type.
The early maturing varieties have the same overall appearance, only they have fewer and smaller leaves. You will probably find that most Belgian endives you buy from a store or grow from seed will be of this type.
The leaves of both types of endives are edible. They are especially good in salads or when used as a garnish.