Force Witloof chicory in the dark for one of the most delicious gourmet treats of the winter veg garden. Witloof chicory produces torpedo-shaped pale yellow ‘chicons’ or chicory hearts in just four to six weeks after harvest. They add crunch and sophistication sliced sparingly into winter salads, or if you want to tone down the bitterness even further, try braising them gently in the oven with shallots and thyme.
Sow your chicory in early summer in pots or modules (you’ll find all you need here at the garden centre in Bitton and Warminster), then plant out and grow on just like lettuce. This month, once the crown (where roots meet leaves) reaches around 5cm across, dig up the whole plant.
Sow Your Chicory
Knock off any excess soil off to expose the long taproots, selecting the largest and fattest to force. Cut back the leaves to just 3cm above the crown, leaving you with a short stump, then pot them up five roots to a 25cm container of compost. Then upturn a black bucket over the top. Keep somewhere dark and reasonably warm, at around 10-15°C, and check every few days. Once chicons are 15cm high, snip them off at the base: they'll re-sprout a few times more with smaller chicons before they're spent.