Chicory can be sown direct or in module trays or pots for later planting (about three weeks after sowing). Sow indoors or under cover from March. Germination takes between one to two weeks. Sowing every two to three weeks should produce a reliable, consistent crop. A late sowing in August will give you leaves to harvest up to Christmas.
For module trays, sow approx. 1cm deep and plant out 3-4 weeks later (once they have reached 10cm tall) leaving 15 to 20cm between plants. Make sure the soil is moist and the seedlings do not dry out. Water well until they are firmly established.
To sow direct, sow 1 to 2 seeds every 10cm in rows 20cm apart. Once established, thin plants to 15-20cm in the row.
You can start harvesting the baby leaves as soon as they are ready. Or leave to form a compact head – it will feel firm and plump to touch when it’s ready. The raddichio varieties grown for their red leaves will be green in the summer and only go red in the colder weather of autumn/winter.
To force in winter, you can either dig up a few plant roots and put them in big pots or buy dormant plants in pots in the autumn. If using your own, cut the plants back to about 2cm of foliage, dig up the roots and plant them in a big pot. Put a bucket over the top of the pot to block out light and store in a shed or somewhere frost free. Tender white chicons will form over winter – these can be cut off and eaten, and the process can then be repeated for spring. After this, remove the bucket from the top and allow plants to grow as normal.