Chicory Rosso di Treviso
Chicory is a fantastic plant to grow for salad leaves through the Autumn and Winter. Rosso di Treviso is one of the most robust, being able to withstand temperatures down to -15C! It's beautiful too, with contrasting deep red leaves and pure white stems that look stunning back lit by the low winter sun.
The succulent leaves have a meaty, slightly bitter taste. Some people find the bitterness offputting. I think it's a wonderful part of the flavour. Besides, the bitterness tends to moderate after the first frosts, and if you eat the inner leaves you'll find them less bitter because they've had less sunlight on them.
Time from seed to plate: 16 weeks
Wait untill June or July to sow chicory. Go earlier and the plants have a tendency to bolt.
Chicory seeds can be sown directly into your soil, but I prefer to sow in gutters. It's a quick way to sow, and it's easy to tease out individual plants for planting out. Fill the gutter with compost, firm and create a shallow groove down the centre about half an inch deep. Sprinkle the seed in sparingly, aiming for one every half inch or so. Water gently but thoroughly.
Sowing method: Gutters
Alternatively use modules or Jiffy 7s.
Transfer your seedlings to your plot when they're 2-3in tall. Separate the plants from one another in the gutter using a trowel and plant out individually, leaving 12inches between plants in both directions. Water in and scatter with some organic slug killer till the plants establish themselves.
Harvest your chicories from October onwards. I like to leave mine until there's been a couple of frosts. This takes the edge off the bitterness.
Cut off the plant at the base with a sharp knife.
When you serve them in salads, combine with blander leaves like lettuce, and use a slightly sweet dressing. Wonderful with cubes of blue cheese on top.