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Growing Belgian Endive

Apr 11, 2012
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People who like Belgian endive like it so much they grow it twice. In fact, they have no choice. Endive, perhaps the most famous member of the chicory family, is grown in two stages, once for the roots, and a second time for its yellow and white leaves. It is a particularly welcome member of the family in that it can produce crunchy salads throughout the entire winter if you grow enough roots. Belgian endive is known for its pleasantly bitter flavor that works well both raw and cooked. This educational pictorial wll show you how to enjoy some of Belgium's finest without leaving your own backyard.


Step 1: Plant endive seeds in spring (early June, for most places) in rich soil, two rows per 30 inch (.76 meter) bed, 6 inches (15 cm) apart. Plants will grow upwards forming lush green foliage.


Step 2: After 110-130 days, gently unearth the roots with a digging fork being careful not to break or damage them. They are the "business end" of the plant and the storehouse of energy for the second phase of growth.


Step 3: Cut off the leaves to within an inch or two (2-4 cm) or so and add feed the leaves to your nitrogen hungry compost pile.


Step 4: Trim the roots down to a uniform length of 6-8 inches (15-20 cm).


Step 5: Pack the roots upright in a bucket or pail and fill around them with sand, if you have it, or loose sandy soil if you don't. Regular soil or peat can also be used, but it is difficult to use for filling in the gaps. Cover and store pails in the coolest location available.


Step 6. Three weeks before you want to enjoy your first endive feast, move the bucket to a 50-60 degree (10-15 celsius) location within your house adding water, if necessary. It's better to have it too wet than too dry. Keep the bucket covered so as not to allow light through. This is what keeps the leaves white. Within a few days, new growth will begin to appear.


Step 7: Check on your bucket from time to time. Roughly three weeks after stage 6, you should be able to cut your first endive salad. If you started with thick, stocky roots, cut them as you did in step 3 as you may be able to get a second harvest from them. Don't worry if your endives don't hold together tightly in a conical form, the flavor will be the same.

Step 8: Enjoy your harvest!


Thank you so much Roger, the simple explanation on the seed package, had me scratching my head a bit, but sure enough it was exactly as you described, although it was helpful to have some more detail about the temps. What was not mentioned are the following - can the green summer leaves be selectively trimmed and eaten, and what kind of sun exposure do they like during the initial growing phase. Also, any chance the roots are perennial if you simply leave them in the garden an extra year? 100 plus growing days is a challenge for us some years due to our elevation. I would love to get this down, upwards of $3.99 a pound for endive is a little much, and it isn't all that fresh at our local stores. I have been on one of those nasty diets, but the good news is that it comes with a giant polyfoam container, that I think might be just the storage system for my endive roots. I can just cover and leave them in the cold barn tack room until I bring them in to start new growth. I don't think they could freeze that way, but would stay mighty cold. Think that would work?
Oops, must have used up all my room. MSG cut off two questions - sun exposure during 1st growth, and can the green leaves be selectively trimmed and eaten?
Like other leafy greens, endives enjoy the sun but tolerate some shade so they don't require the sunniest placement in your garden. The green leaves are edible, but quite bitter. It's better to feed them to your chickens or compost pile.
Thank you Roger.. I am a bit confused though.. I grow my belgian endive for the tender green leaves from seed, harvested and steamed in summer and fall, till they get too bitter.. then harvest the roots.. then the February shoots. I leave four of my best plants to provide heirloom seeds for next spring. For me, Belgian endives provide summer salad greens as well as winter dinner meat substitutes, wrapped in thin prosciutto or parmesan ham or cooked ham or cheese, covered with Mornay sauce, baked in the oven.
This is so appreciated thank you for your straight forward explanation and photos. I will try growing my packet of seeds this spring.
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