The not-so-nice-looking item in the photo is one of the many roots in the cellar from the 2010 harvest of Witloof Chicory. There’s two bins of these guys – grown on our small city lot aside other root veg. No, no they don’t look tasty, but the creamy white belgian endive you may recognize will be. Or at least I hope it will be.
You get to that belgian endive state by planting a crop the year before, harvesting the roots of the leafy and too-bitter-to-eat chicory, and then forcing the sturdy roots to sprout again by exposing them to cool, not cold conditions – the blanched sprout being the prize. That’s a long process. Key here is to keep them in the dark too – or the result will simply be bitter green sprouts. What I’m looking for is a white ‘chicon’ forming at the crown of each root. Apparently, once harvested, subsequently smaller sprouted treasures will form. The root, once used fully, ends up in the compost.
This is my first go at this, and it’s been an important project to me. We live pretty far north, and the prospect of having a ‘freshly grown’ crunchy salad ‘green’ available through the winter is exciting – a welcome addition to cabbage and root-veg slaws. More on this as it progresses.