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The Behr vegetable ABC


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Chicory belongs to the compositae family and originates from the wild chicory plant seen on roadsides. Together with radicchio and sugar loaf, chicory is included in the group of leaf chicories. Chicory as we know it today was first offered in Brussels during the mid-19th century as “white leaf chicory” or Witloof chicory. Nearly 400,000 tonnes are produced annually today, more than 90 % in France and the Netherlands. Like all chicories, it has a distinctive, bitter taste owing to its high intybin content. This bitter substance is mainly found in the stalk and leaf veins.

Chicory is a two-year crop. The first year is to cultivate chicory in the field in order to develop an optimal chicory root for forcing. The later yield and quality of the salad rely heavily on the varieties and crop conditions. Deep, slightly stone-free sites are ideal for cultivation. Sowing takes place from mid- to end of April and lasts until around the end of May. The roots can then be harvested after a roughly 20 week cultivation period. The roots are lifted, cleaned and then stored until forcing begins. In order to force the chicory, the roots are stored in a single layer in forcing trays. The trays are then placed in absolute darkness and the roots are continually flushed with a nutrient solution (water forcing). After about 3 to 4 weeks, tight shoots called chicons form on the roots and can be cut. All work must be conducted in the dark if possible, as the leaves would otherwise immediately turn green and the product could not be sold.

Download: Crop calendar

Chicory is delicious as a salad and also tastes good with a sweet dressing as a counterpoint or steamed as a hot vegetable side dish.

When storing chicory at home avoid prolonged exposure to light as the leaves turn green or yellow otherwise and the outer leaves become bitter. They can be stored for several days in the vegetable drawer in the fridge.

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