ORGANIC GARDENING TIPS: ENDIVE

Top of the list of autumn and winter salad plants, endive takes the place of lettuce when that is unobtainable. In summer the leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach; for this purpose the plants need not be blanched, that operation (described later) being necessary to make the leaves white and crisp for raw salad use.

Light and well-drained soil is most suited to its needs, dug at least a spade blade deep and cither manured or enriched with an artificial fertilizer.

Varieties include Mossy Curled and Digswell Prize, for spring sowing; White Curled and Green Curled, for early summer sowing; Winter Curled, Oval-leaved,

Winter Lettuce-leaved and Improved Round-leaved (Batavian varieties) for August sowing.

About 2,000 plants are represented in an ounce of seed, and germination takes place in about nine days.

Ready for Use.

The year round, according to variety and date of sowing.

Soil Preparation.

Roots of endive need to go down deeply. In shallow or undug soil the crop is likely to fail. The spade should therefore be used to a good depth. If manure is unobtainable for mixing with the dug soil, sulphate of potash, raked into the dug surface at the rate of I J ounces per sq. yd., is a great help.

When and How to Sow.

As only a few plants are required at a time, quite small sowings should be made at intervals of a few days. Sow in April and May, in a sunny position, for early summer supplies; crop will be ready in about ten weeks. Sow in June and July for the main crop; in August for a late crop to stand through the winter, these plants being available for use in about fifteen weeks and onwards.

Seed may be sown in J,-in. deep drills for later planting out or where they are to remain, this being the better plan in soil that is quick to dry out. In the latter circumstances the drills may be about 2 in. deep (though the seed is to be covered only about in. deep), these to be filled with water in rainless periods. They should be 1 ft. apart.

Planting Out, Thinning Out.

Seedlings in temporary drills are to be planted in their final places when about 2 in. high, crowded plants to be thinned out meanwhile. Those in permanent drills to be thinned out, as soon as they can be handled, to 1 ft. apart.

The ground should be soaked with water before planting out, unless enough rain has fallen.

Watering, Feeding.

Dry soil encourages seeding – plants quickly run up to flower and are wasted. It is essential that roots be kept moist. An occasional pinch (per plant) of nitrate of soda greatly assists leaf production.

How Blanching is Done.

When plants have thickened up at the centre they should be blanched – a few at a time – by excluding all light ; this removes some of the natural slight bitterness and prepares them for salad purposes. Average time for blanching to be completed is about three weeks.

To secure the absolute darkness necessary, boards or tiles may be placed on edge along both sides of a row, upper edges meeting above the plants to be blanched. The leaves should be dry when this is done, and slugs and snails (extremely partial to endive) should be looked for around the plants and also on the tiles or boards.

Another method consists in covering each plant with an inverted flower pot, the interior first being searched for pests, the drainage hole being covered with a flat stone to block out light. It may be necessary to bunch the leaves together to get them into the inverted pot. Plants of more vigorous growth – too large for flower pot treatment – should have the leaves drawn together at the top and banded there with raffia; dry hay or leaves heaped over them will complete the blanching process.

Winter Treatment.

Plants that are to stand through die winter (for winter and early spring use) where soil normally lies cold and wet will be much safer- in a frame after the end of October; each to be taken up with a trowel, with all the soil that will cling to the roots, and replanted at once, 6 in. apart, in good soil in the frame.

Water them in, but keep moisture from the leaves. The interior of the frame is to be kept as dry as possible and the frame light shut down in foggy or misty weather and during frost. The air must be kept moving in the frame, so some ventilation is necessary when outside conditions allow. Further to avoid decay, broken leaves should be picked off when the plants are transferred to the frame.

At the frrst hint of frost, dry sacking or mats should be placed over the frame light and there remain until the frost has gone. Covering the glass, or part of it, will also effect blanching.

In the absence of a frame, plants may be replanted at the foot of a fence or wall facing south or west and there covered up.

Gathering.

When required for use, plants should be pulled up like lettuce. If left too long to blanch the centres may start to decay.

Preparing for Table.

Cut off the roots, remove soiled, decayed or broken leaves, examine for slugs (in the hearts) and wash thoroughly. Leaves are then dried by placing them in a clean cloth and shaking this vigorously. Endive is a very welcome relish, an antiscorbutic and a mild laxative.

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