How To Grow Endive Plants:
Endive is a plant that is actually quite possible to grow in your very own backyard. The best news is that growing endive, while it might seem more intimidating due to the unusual name, is really not that terribly difficult of a plant to grow in your backyard garden. Endive is quite similar in many ways to growing lettuce as it is part of the same plant family.
There are two main varieties of endive that you can choose to grow: narrow-leaved variety called endive, which is our focus here. The other type is a broader-leaved type called escarole.
Endive is a great to toss into a salad or great to saute and include in a variety of dishes you may cook. It can even serve as garnish to a cold side-dish.
Seed Sowing Depth: Endive seeds should be planted at about 3 times the depth of the size of the seed. Given that each seed measures about 1/8" in diameter, it's best to sow these seeds about 1/2 to 1" deep in the soil and should be separated by about 8 to 12" of space. Plant each row about 18" apart to allow for proper room for the plants to grow out as they mature. When in doubt, leaving extra space between the seeds is the best way to go. More space is better than bunching your plants up and causing them to not be able to grow as there is inadequate room.
When to Sow: Endive seeds do best in temperatures between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that in the mid-to-late spring after the frosts have all passed is the best time to plant your endive seeds. Be sure that frosts are over as they can kill endive plants, especially plants that are still immature and are still growing in size to their full maturation.
If you live in a cooler climate, planting the seeds indoors and letting them germinate for 4 to 6 weeks before moving them outdoors is the best recommended practice. Otherwise, grow them in pots where you can move them inside if temperatures get frigid or frost is in the weather forecast.
Sowing Indoors/Outdoors: Endive seeds can be sown outdoors once temperatures regularly reach the 59 to 77 degree mark. If you live in a cooler climate, you can begin growing your seeds indoors for about 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting them outside once the weather is warm enough and all of the frosts are sure to have passed.
No matter where you grow your endive, be sure to water the plant from the base so the leaves are not overly-saturated, which can cause the plant's leaves to rot and kill off the endive.
Plant Heights & Widths: Mature endive plants will end up being with each leaf growing on a small, bush-like plant. Each leaf of endive will be about 4-6" in size depending on the growing conditions and the maturity of the plant when you harvest the leaves. The tips will also turn a green-yellow color to let you know they are fully mature. This is the best time to pick the endive for optimal texture and taste.
Leaf Description/Color: Endive leaves will usually be a mid-to-dark/deep green color with tips that turn a green-yellow when they full mature and are ready for harvest. They will grow off of a thin, stem-like plant that forms a small "bush" as the plant matures toward being ready to be harvested.
Growth Habits: Endive like warmer climates of 59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Endive plants will not handle either the cold or frost well. It will likely kill the plant if it gets frost on it, especially in the earlier stages of the plant's growth. Maturing endive plants are more susceptible to freeze-related deaths than their mature counterparts, but none are known for fairing particularly well in frigid temperatures or during frosts.
Begin growing the plant inside for 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting it outside if you are starting to grow your plants in the early-to-mid spring, otherwise wait till mid-to-late spring when you are sure freezing temperatures and the accompanying frosts are done for the winter. You will also need to wrap up growing your endive before the fall frosts hit, or those will likely kill the plant as well.
Endive likes to grow in a moderate climate where it gets about 1/2 inch of water per seed that germinates over the course of each week. Be sure to water plants at the root as getting the leaves too wet can cause the leaves to rot and die. Moderate sunlight is also needed to help ensure the plants grow to their fullest maturity soon as possible.
General Information on Their Use: Endive makes a great addition to salads or stir-fries as well as other dishes. You can add it to sandwiches for more of a bitter kick or taste to it. It goes great with tomatoes or other lunch meat sandwiches you may enjoy making throughout the spring and summer months. It's a great garnish or bed for meats to lay on and to include with a variety of dishes you may choose to cook.
Endive can also make a great addition to any Indian type dish such as a curry or even can replace things like spinach in soup for a more bitter flavor for those that prefer such flavors. It is also commonly used in a light appetizer where it is mixed with goat cheese. It's a great starter to a fancy meal and is friendly to the waste like as portioned with about 1-2 ounces of spicy goat cheese, the appetizer weighs in only about 100 calories per serving. The spice and bitter flavor will balance out to make the perfect palette cleanser to begin your meal.
All of these uses make endive a great vegetable to add to your diet to help you reach the goal of 3 to 5 servings of vegetables that you need to consume each and every day for a healthy lifestyle. Those eating a higher-calorie diet will need to consume even more of these types of foods to balance their diet. Endive is a great addition to your greens and vegetables consumed each day.
Endive Pests & Diseases: Endive is susceptible to several types of pests and diseases throughout the course of it's growing phase. One common problem with endive is the leaves rotting, which is also called damping off, if they are constantly wet due to watering. To avoid this, simply water the plant at the base of the stem where it meets the dirt. This means about 1/2 inch of water per week for each seed that germinates, and keeping the leaves dry can stop the plant from having it's lettuces rot before they can be harvested. The leaves will ultimately succumb to mold that grows on them if they are consistently wet and over saturated with water.
Endive plants are also susceptible to several other pests such as slugs, snails, aphids, cabbage worms/loopers, etc. which can eat the leaves off or start at the stem and eat the plant up and kill the entire thing, including the leaves that are harvested and eaten. Keep an eye out on your plants and remove any pests that you see on your plants immediately, and spray with plant-friendly insecticides if necessary to kill insects and keep your plant safe till it can grow to a full stage of maturity for harvesting.
Harvesting Information & Storage: Endive is also known as a microgreen, which means that it is best stored in a low, flat, shallow tray, preferably with drainage to allow the excess water from the leaves to drip out and not soak them causing mold, rot, and decay of the leaves. A water mister is useful to help keep the leaves moist without allowing them to become saturated.
Use kitchen sheers are one of the best ways to cut the leaves down at the stem in a clean manner which will allow them to grow back full and healthy as they were before. Once harvested, keep the leaves in the refrigerator and ensure that it is well rinsed and dried so that no pesticides remaining on the leaves can cause them to rot off and mold, wilt, or die.
In the refrigerator, you can usually store endive for 4-5 days before it will begin to show signs of decay, mold, or rot.
Edible Uses and Flavors:
Endive can be used for a variety of different purposes from toppings to sandwiches or burgers, it can be mixed into salads, or even sauteed as a side dish to meat and a carbohydrate or used raw a fresh bed of lettuce for a meat or other form of protein to rest upon as a garnish. It can be worked into stir-fries or curries as a vegetable as well.
The taste that endive leaves is somewhat bitter, however, the bitter flavor can be cut down on by leaving the lettuce in the fridge for 24-48 hours before eating it.