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Forcing Belgian Endive

02.01.11

It’s time. Time for a mid-winter salad crop from the cellar. Time to force some roots.

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.

8 Responses

  1. Wow. That makes such great sense for our winters. I knew that endives were grown in the dark, but I had no idea they could be carried over into winter like that.

    Do you do the forcing in tubs in your cellar?

  2. Mike says:

    In my experience, Belgian endive is a very tenacious root and will no doubt provide you with some beautiful chicons.:) Can’t wait to see them. You are one of the few people I know that grows these..very nice.

  3. Allan – I know, heh?! I think winter slaws, forced roots, and sprouts will be our answers to winter non-root veg eating. I’ll do the forcing outside the cellar as it’s the warmer temps that will spur them on – I’ll ‘plant them’ in my cool-but-warmer basement.

    Mike – Glad to hear it! As a newbie, it’s always promising to hear something you’re about to tackle has a high probability of success.

  4. I would have never even THOUGHT about this… how did you learn this could be done? That is what I love about you… you learn, then you do. I cannot wait to see your “crop” !
    Brilliant!
    :)
    valerie
    I am looking for your “Tweet This”
    did you?
    And congrats for being on CBC. I did not see it – I hears about it from Gail Hall who saw it. The AB Culinary tourism day in Ryley was really fantastic… baby steps Alberta – we have to increase our pace – but good stuff.
    :)
    Valerie

  5. V – root cellaring books usually cover it. Both the Bubels’ book and Eliot Coleman do this. I’m keen to do baby beet greens this way.

    I’m working on the *social networking* stuff. May even have it emailable to your inbox soon.

  6. Greg says:

    “Forcing Belgian endive” sounds like some kind of World War II lingo.

  7. arlene says:

    Have you tried sprouting? I’ve sprouted enough fresh greens from seeds I get from a family organic farm in Manitoba to feed out family of 4 (two of the 4 are teen boys) in about 6 sq inches of counter space. The sprouters stack, (you can use a jar, but I never have luck with that) and take very little work (rinse twice a day). Delicious greens for salads or sandwiches. A half teaspoon of seed goes a long way sprouted. I know, it’s not strictly local if the seed is from Manitoba, but there is a lot of seed that could be available from Alberta.

  8. Kevin says:

    Not yet – but clearly a good idea. I save enough arugula seed myself to make a project worthwhile, for ex. Thanks for the reminder.

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