Gardening

How to Grow Endive

My goal for the garden this year was to plant a few new veggies I had never tried before.

One of those vegetables?

Endives.

I have never even tasted an endive before, so honestly, I’m really excited to give these a try. From what I understand, they aren’t terribly difficult to grow and can be cultivated in a fashion similar to that of lettuce. 

Here’s what I’ve learned.

how to grow endive

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What Is Endive?

how to grow endive

Endives (or endive) and escarole are both cold-weather vegetables that are cultivars of the same plant. Curly endive has ruffled leaves while escarole has smooth leaves, but both are grown in the exact same way. 

Best grown as annuals, these plants are actually biennials. They are delicious salad greens that taste a lot like lettuce but have stronger flavors.

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Some people steam or saute endive, and it actually tastes wonderful when blanched, as it has a milder flavor (although it loses much of its color). 

This plant is different from the Belgian endive, which is actually in the chicory family. 

Generally speaking, you’ll need about two plants for each member of your household. Try not to get too carried away with your planting, either, as this is a difficult plant to preserve for recipes after the prime harvest season. It can be frozen and cooked in a soup or stir fry, but it won’t hold its texture well.

Popular Endive Varieties

how to grow endive

Some of the most popular endive varieties include:

Curled Endive:

  • Frisan
  • President
  • Tres Fine Endive
  • Salad King
  • Tosca
  • Green Curled Ruffec
  • Galia 

Broad-Leaf Escarole:

  • Broad-leaved Batavian
  • Florida Deep Heart
  • Coral
  • Full Heart Batavian
  • Sinco
  • Sinco Escarole

How to Grow Endive 

how to grow endive

Endives are very similar to lettuce so it’s best to plant this crop in the early spring. You will want to start early, either by growing your plant in a small pot in a germination station and hardening it off before placing it outside or by putting it in a greenhouse. If you live in a warm climate, you can probably skip the steps in the middle. 

Endives grow great when started indoors. Make sure you resist the urge to transplant until the risk of frost has passed in the spring, as this plant is relatively frost-sensitive. 

If you decide to start seeds outside, remember that it will take some time to get things going. The ground needs to be pretty warm in order for the seeds to germinate.

If you’re transplanting seedlings, water them an hour before planting. You will want to water after planting, too, but avoid soaking. Choose a cloudy day that has as little wind as possible for the best results. 

Choose a site that has plenty of sun but take comfort in knowing that it can handle a bit of shade, too. You will want to seed liberally, as the seeds are small, and then thin once they’ve emerged and developed into healthy seedlings. At this time – as well as if you are transplanting starter plants – you will want to make sure your plants are spaced about six inches apart. 

Rows should be eighteen inches apart.

Endive requires 85 to 100 days of warm temperature – ideally those around 85 degrees – and is much more tolerant of heat than lettuce. 

Caring for Endive

how to grow endive

Endive grows well with companion plants like parsnips, turnips, and radishes. I am considering growing it between rows of radishes to fully maximize my space. Do not plant it with squash or pumpkins, but bear in mind that this plant is easy to grow in a container, too!

While your endive plant is growing, you will need to keep your beds moist and evenly watered. This will help the plants develop quickly. Too little water can stunt the growth of your plant and make the leaves more bitter. 

Super dry weather can actually cause your endive plant to go to seed or “bolt.” Once this happens, the plant puts up a tall seed head and it’s all over!

When you plant, consider adding some aged compost. You can top dress with compost tea later on, but try not to splash too much up on the leaves. 

The endive plant is fairly resistant to most pests and disease, although it can attract some of the same pests as lettuce (like slugs, cutworms, and aphids). Rotating your crops can help, as can placing collars on the plants. 

Fungal disease also occasionally occurs. This can be prevented by following proper spacing guidelines so it receives plenty of airflow.

Harvesting Endive

how to grow endive

You’ll be ready to harvest endives just 80 days after planting. Make sure you do so before the first frost, because again, these plants are sensitive to a frost. To harvest, cut the plant off at the base. Sometimes, it will resprout so you can take multping cuttings, but not always.

You can’t store your endive in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It can be frozen, too, but will likely need to be used relatively quickly after being frozen to prevent a loss of flavor. 

So what do you think? Is this a plant you’ll be growing in your garden this year? I’ll make sure to take pictures so you can see my results – I’m excited to give it a try!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah Pierce

I'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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