Belgian endive

Belgian endive is related to chicory and is grown in the dark so the leaves do not turn green.

Also known as:
Root chicory
Endive (France, Canada)
Chicory (the UK)
Witlof (Australia)

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Photo: Rasbak - CC BY-SA 3.0

Belgian endive(Cichorium intybus var. foliosum) is a perennial herbaceous plant of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Sow in May in open ground in a seedbed of light, airy soil. Water timely to prevent the seed from drying out. Thin out so that the plantlets are 15 to 20 cm apart. In late October, early November the roots are harvested, the foliage is cut off to a few cm above the root and replanted in a container or bucket. Place it in a dark place and not too cool. From the root grow the chicory stalks. Instead of in a bucket, the chicory roots can also be planted in the open ground. The chicory roots are then ensiled, the foliage is also cut and the roots are covered with a thick layer (20 cm) of soil. Due to low winter temperatures, the harvest is later than that of indoor crops; harvesting will not occur until spring when temperatures begin to rise. Belgian endive is susceptible to Sclerotinia Rot and Bacterial soft rot. The fungus Bacterial soft rot affects the roots and the bacterial disease Sclerotinia Rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) affects the leaves. Heat and moisture promote the development of both diseases. Provide adequate aeration. Belgian endive should change sites annually (crop rotation) because spores of Bacterial soft rot can survive in the soil for years.
Belgian endive is the prime example of forcing. The roots of Belgian endive are placed in buckets and the foliage grows under the influence of heat, but the leaves remain white due to a lack of light.


Tunnels in leaves and petioles, leaves shrivel and die: chicory leafminer fly (Napomyza cichorii).

Lettuce root aphid on chicory, photo: Rasbak – CC BY-SA 3.0

The chicory lags in growth; on the roots are white-gray aphids that cause a white stringy mass on the roots: Lettuce-root aphid (Pemphigus bursarius).

Feeding on root or stem of young plant: wireworm (larvae of click beetles).

Delayed growth, insufficient length growth of roots, nodules at the ends of roots: Root knot nematode (Meloidogyne fallax).

Fungi & diseases

recognize Pseudomonas marginalis on chicory
Leaffire, photo: Rasbak – CC BY-SA 3.0

Leaf edges turn black: Pseudomonas marginalis.

Leaf of Belgian endive put in bucket in autumn turns brown and rots away: gray mold (Botrytis ssp.).

Gray-brown colored rot on the roots: Sclerotinia Rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum).

Roots of chicory planted in bucket in autumn turn black and die: Fusarium foot rot (Fusarium solani).


Plant grows poorly, wilts: mice or voles.

recognize browning Belgian endive
Outer leaves turn brown, photo: Dennis Verschuuren

During storage, the outer leaves turn brown. The cause is moisture:
– or too little (the stumps are too dry) or just too moist. Leaving the harvested Belgian endive to dry well, watering only every few weeks between the stems (not on the leaves) will help prevent browning. Storage in a dry, well-ventilated area also helps. Harvest in dry weather.
While drying, the cuts heal. The drying time of uprooted Belgian endive depends on the temperature. Research by the Wageningen University & Research (Wageningen) showed that cork formation on the cut wound occurred after seven days at 18°C, after 12 days at 12°C and after 32 days at 4°C. The higher the temperature the faster the Belgian endive dries – and the more likely the stumps will sprout as well. Most commonly applied temperature: 12°C to 15°C.
Remove the brown leaves and eat the Belgian endive or blanch and freeze.

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