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Preparing for Autumn salads

Monday, July 17, 2017 4:47
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Latest post from MARKSVEGPLOT – a blog about food and gardening in England”

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the often under-appreciated Endives and Radicchios. I love them and grow them every year. I also like to do my bit to try and increase their popularity. Here in the UK you seldom see Endives for sale in the supermarkets, and only occasionally Radicchio. I think this is because of lack of customer demand. The shops won’t stock them if they don’t think they can sell enough to make it worthwhile. Maybe if I write about them some people will see my post and start asking for their local shops to stock them…?

Most types of chicory do best in coolish conditions (many of them are very hardy) and seem to prefer not to have to endure really hot sunshine. For this reason, I generally grow my Radicchio in the Autumn, sowing it in late June or early July, and planting it in its final position in late July or early August, for harvesting in October and November. With Endives, I do much the same, having tried unsuccessfully many times to grow Spring-sown ones. They always bolted, so I have given up on that approach. Here are the seedlings I sowed in June, currently about two inches tall. I’ll be planting these out soon.

Earlier this year I grew some “Provencal Mix” (mixed lettuce, herbs and chicories) as a type of Baby Leaf Salad, and I extracted just a few (4, to be exact) chicory plants from the mix and have been growing them alongside my lettuces.

I’m hoping they will go on to be specially-strong plants, having had a lot longer than normal to develop. Of course this relies upon giving them the right conditions. The raised bed in which my salads are growing is comparatively shady, overshadowed as it is by a couple of trees, so the chicories seem to be managing OK, though I am still being careful to water them frequently.

This is how they look now:-

To be honest, I have no idea what type of chicories these four plants are. The one in the photo above looks more like a Treviso-type, which is typically tall and pointed, rather than the ball-headed type such as “Rossa di Verona” . On the other hand, it could also perhaps be “Pan di Zucchero” (Sugarloaf)

The other day I realised that I had loads of very old packs of Endive, Radicchio and Lettuce seeds – some dating back to 2005! I sowed a seed-tray of mixed varieties of each, sowing them very thickly on the understanding that it was unlikely that many of them would germinate.  I have been pleasantly surprised, and quite a few of them have come up – though they are currently still tiny. Of course I have no idea which ones have come up and which haven’t.

Endive seedlings

I’ll thin these out as they grow, retaining the strongest ones, and when they are a few inches tall I’ll plant them in a raised bed. They are going to go in the bed currently holding onions and leeks. The leeks will be there for a few more months, but the onions are nearly ready for harvesting, so there should be enough room.

Hopefully, having made all these preparations I’ll end up with “saladings” well into the Autumn. For now though, Lettuce rules the roost…

Lettuce “Yugoslavian Red” (immature)

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