Chicory isn’t fussy about soil type, but it does require a sunny spot. Dig the soil in autumn or winter, and incorporate compost if the soil is short of humus. Prepare the seed bed a few days before sowing, then rake a general purpose fertiliser into the surface.

Sowing time

May – June.

Crop care

Hoe regularly to keep weeds down. Water when the weather is dry, and thin the seedlings to 6” apart (forcing varieties) or 12” apart (non-forcing varieties).

Forcing varieties

Lift parsnip-like roots in November, and discard any that are fanged or less than 1” across at the crown. Cut the leaves back to 1” above the crown, then cut the roots to a length of 6” and pack them horizontally in a box of sand in a cool shed to be kept until required. Force a few at a time between November and March, by planting about 5 plants into a 9” pot. Surround each root with moist peat or compost, leaving the crown exposed, then cover the pot with an empty larger one, blocking up drainage holes to stop light getting in. Keep at 50–60°F to promote chicon formation.


Forcing varieties:

The chicons are ready when they reach about 6” high. This will take about 3–4 weeks from the start of forcing. Cut just above the level of the crown, water the compost and replace the cover, and smaller secondary chicons will appear.

Non-forcing varieties:

Cut the heads in late autumn, and use them immediately or store them in a cool shed for later use. Provide some frost protection over plants if they are not to be cut until the winter.