Tag Archives: chicory

Root Chicory Trials 2021 at Være

One of the experiments this year in the KVANN (Norwegian Seed Savers) trial gardens at Væres Venner in Trondheim has been a comparison of different root chicories. These have 3 main uses:
Witloof (literally “white leaf”) or forcing chicories used for producing chicons, also known as Belgian or French endive (forced from the roots in the dark, usually in winter. to reduce the bitterness);
Root chicories where the root is used as a vegetable, popular in winter in Italy;
Coffee chicories are also in the group root chicories and sometimes the same varieties harvested more mature and used as coffee surrogate (ground and roasted).
There are hundreds of varieties of chicories with multiple other uses. Common for all here in the north is that they are relatively easy to grow with few pests and diseases, thus easier to grow organically than for example the cabbage family. However, they are almost never used here in Norway. In Norway’s largest FB group on vegetables “Grønnsaksdyrking i Hele Norge” with 36,000 members there is only one mention of chicory)(sikkori) and that more as a wild plant than something you would cultivate. 
This is partly because most have been selected for a very different (Mediterranean) climate and some go to seed (bolt) in the first year which significantly lowers yields. Witloof chicories have, however, largely been improved further north (Belgium and France) and my experience has shown that these varieties only occasionally bolt (out of several hundred plants grown this year, none bolted!).

The chicory bed just before harvest. There are 9 varieties along the 1.2m wide raised bed.

I sourced different varieties of root chicories from the German genebank IPK Gatersleben with the objective to select a good variety in the two main groups for my area (I had previously had reasonably good experience growing witloof chicories for forcing in winter; see the picture below). I wanted also to explore if it is possible to be self-sufficient in seed. As part of the seed saving process, roots need to be overwintered and grown to flowering in the second year. Hardiness of chicories varies a lot between varieties and I therefore overwinter roots in my cold cellar, but plan also later to test winter hardiness outside. Some chicories can also perennialize like the wild species and this is a secondary project to select high yielding perennial and hardy chicories. Another great characteristic of chicories and side-effect of seed saving is that the beautiful chicory flowers are very popular with pollinators and a number of selections with different flower colours are also available for growing as an ornamental. This is indeed a great combination plant that I term an edi-ento-mental (edible, good for the pollinators and ornamentally valuable too).
See the various flower variants I’ve grown in this post: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=18650

Winter forced Witloof chicons from my cold cellar in mid¨-February

Chicory in flower in my garden

I was pleased with the yield, which was better than I’ve experienced in my shady garden at home. The fact that the roots are irregular in size is probably at least in part due to the fact that the spacing between the roots was a little irregular (I will try for a more even spacing next year).

Witloof chicory Prezo RZ performed well
Witloof chicory Extra Vroege Mechelse had a lot of forking roots


We’ve grown 4 varieties of Witloof forcing chicories including Witloof Prezo RZ, Witloof Extra Vroege Mechelse (Early) and Witloof Dobbel Blank. In the video there are 9 varieties shown and the Witloofs are #2, 7, 8 and 9. There are some nice size roots and I plan to grown on the largest 20-25 or so roots for seed, which will then be made available to KVANN members.

Nice sized roots of the edible root variety Radici di Soncino

The root chicory Radici di Chiavara 

There were two varieties of root chicory and both gave good yields. I will probably grow again next year in larger quantity (the descriptions are taken from Stephen Facciola’s Cornucopia II)
Radici di Chiavara (Chiavari)
Grown primarily for its root, although the leaves are also used and have a good flavor. The root is thick-collared, creamy white and uniform. Grows over a long season, from early spring until late fall. To prepare, scrape and boil the root until tender. Slice thinly and serve with vinaigrette, or it can be rolled in bread crumbs, deep fried and served with lemon and parsley.
Radici di Soncino(Radison)
Long, narrow roots with creamy white skin and flesh; rather bitter. May be harvested anytime from autumn until the following spring. Popular in Italy where it is considered very healthful and is cooked and eaten in many ways.

Below is a video showing all the harvested roots:

Unusual October veg

A few unusual vegetables this October from the Edible Garden and House:
1. I’ve been trialling around 20 different chicories this year from seed from the German seed bank IPK Gatersleben. This is one of the best producers, Sugar Loaf (Accession CICH 350) which ended up in yesterday’s Basella and Chicory pizza! I remember years ago on a work meeting in Venice enjoying a chicory pizza.

2. Gunnera tinctoria is the representative for South America in my book Around the World in 80 plants. Sadly, it is not very hardy and mine grows in a large pot half submerged in my small pond and is moved into the cellar for the winter where it goes to sleep for most of the winter. The edible leaf petioles don’t reach the size of plants grown outside and are therefore a bit more fibrous. Their crunchy texture and sweet-sour taste was nevertheless a good addition to a mixed salad earlier in the week.  
3. This summer was the first time I’d grown Okinawan spinach (Gynura bicolor). I cut it down earlier this week and used the leaves in the mixed salad together with the Gunnera. It’s the variety with red undersides to the leaves. Thanks to my friend Kim Jacobsen who leads KVANNs Stueplantelaug (Norwegian Seed Savers’ (Edible) House Plant guild) for sending me cuttings. It looks and tastes good!

4. I also grow Basella (Ceylon spinach) inside and it always produces berries and seeds for the following year and for sharing. This was used with the chicory (above) in the pizza.


5. Autumn is also the time that the perennial kales resprout and provide an abundance of greens. Here’s a video of the perennial kales in the Edible Garden this week. I have another similar sized plot at the community garden.

6. One of my favourite wild edibles is common sow thistle / haredylle (Sonchus oleraceus), although I deliberately cultivate it. However, apart from posts by myself, this is a plant that isn’t mentioned in Norwegian foraging groups in Norway. Is this because it needs some preparation in order that it’s merits can be properly understood, the bitterness maybe putting people off at first taste? This is a plant I devote several pages to in my book Around the World in 80 Plants and I document how this is an important wild edible worldwide. My introduction to its merits was in the book Native Edible Plants of New Zealand by Andrew Crowe and on a work trip to that country in the early 2000s I could see for myself how important this plant is for the Maori people with over 1/3 of all the vegetable stalls selling this plant. Known as puha to the Maori, it has become a so-called cryptocrop* of the Maori vegetable gardens, an annual “weed” introduced by the Europeans with a similar taste to the traditional perennial endemic sea-cliff inhabiting puha (Sonchus kirkii). Annual puha is encouraged in between the main crops as it has a cash value and increases the yield of the land. It has also been suggested that the large consumption of annual puha by the Maori (hardly used by people of European descent) protects them against some forms of cancer. I was so inspired by the story of how a plant much hated worldwide could at the same time be a superfood appreciated by the Maori and all the other peoples around the world who are in the know, that I introduced it to my garden and it is now become my most important vegetable from late July to the first frosts! From it becoming a burden to weed out this coloniser of open soil, I now weed this “weed” leaving only a few plants to grow strong on the edges of my vegetable beds….and hate is turned to love! Much more in my book!
*Crytocrops: a distinction has been made between cryptocrops
from weeds by Diego Rivera et al. in a 2006 paper: “This led us to distinguish cryptocrops from weeds. Both are not cultivated plants living in crop fields and competing with the main crop. The fundamental distinction is the intensity of gathering by man”.
7.  I have a special fascination for vegetables that are superstars in one part of the world but hardly known in their area of origin and one of those is garland chrysanthemum or crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria, early known as Chrysanthemum coronarium). This is a wild and extremely common flower of early spring in Mediterranean countries, often growing in large quantities, and commonly available in supermarkets in Japan where it’s known as shungiku. See more on this blog post Shungiku soba (a standard offering in soba restaurants in Japan): https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=22710
There is a legend that Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy from China. In an article “Fra Malta til Japan og tilbake” (From Malta to Japan and back again) that I wrote 15 years ago for a Norwegian herbal magazine Grobladet in 2006, I suggested that Mr. Polo gave chopsuey greens in return (see and download the article here https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?page_id=3493).
When I first wrote about shungiku in 2006, I could only find one reference of its use in the Mediterranean for food. Since then, there have been carried out numerous ethnobotanical studies throughout the Mediterranean and a quick search carried out now revealed that this plant has been used traditionally throughout the area, although by no means a common wild edible:
In Turkey: numerous studies (leaves, young shoots and stems are used) have recorded this plant used as summarized in a paper from 2019 by İsmail Şenkardeş and others: “An Ethnobotanical Analysis on Wild Edible Plants of the Turkish Asteraceae Taxa”
In addition, it is recorded in two studies in Spain, in Morocco, Palestine and in Sicily it was both cooked and used in salads.
This plant fits nicely into my diversity cooking as it produces new shoots in smaller amounts throughout the summer from July to the first frosts and they are usable even after the plant has flowered and produced seed.
There are many cultivars with different flower colour, double and single and serrated and whole-leaved forms. I’ve grown some 10-15 different cultivars this summer, the seed from the collections at IPK Gatersleben in Germany.





Winter stir-fry

People are always asking me for recipes. I rarely follow recipes as my ingredients vary so much and I just use what I have available. However, I do follow a number of basic, mostly lacto-vegetarian recipes which I’ve evolved to my liking over the years. For instance, last night I used
a) Pea shoots (erteskudd), harvested about 25cm high (before they get too coarse to use; I don’t cut them right down to the soil as they will then resprout once or twice before giving up; to do this, they must be grown in a bucket or similar in deep soil); the peas were a mixture of about twenty home grown varieties, including several heirlooms such as Norwegian Jærert and Ringeriksert).
b) Swiss chard / mangold (it’s been too cold for this to regrow in the cellar where it’s planted in soil)
c) Chicory “Catalogna gigante di Chioggia” (sikkori) (this had resprouted in the cellar from the roots)  
d) Leeks / purre (also stored in soil in the cellar)
e) Yacon (sliced tubers)
f) Scorzonera / scorsonnerot (sliced tubers)
g) Oca (oka) (Oxalis tuberosa)
h) Garlic / hvitløk
i) Chili / chili
j) Bulb onions / kepaløk
k) golpar (ground seed of various Heracleum species;  bjørnekjeks / Tromsøpalme)
The roots are stir-fried first (in olive oil), then the onions are added and at the end the greens for 5-10 minutes, finally mixing in chili, salt and pepper. Served either over whole grain spelt pasta or mixed as a risotto (I use barley normally for a barlotto) with strong cheese or parmesan. 

The roots are stir-fried first (in olive oil), then the onions are added and at the end the greens for 5-10 minutes, finally mixing in chili, salt and pepper. Served either over whole grain spelt pasta or mixed as a risotto with strong cheese or parmesan. 

Harvesting winter vegetables before the freeze

I’ve been self-sufficient in fresh vegetables year round and have blogged and lectured about how I can do this even in winter without a greenhouse, without a freezer and without using additional energy apart from my own manual labour :) The most important factor allowing me to do this is the cold cellar under the house where I can store vegetables cold and frost free. None of the common winter leafy green vegetables further south in Europe – kales (grønnkål), chards (mangold) and leek (purre) – can be reliably overwintered outside here, although winters are getting milder. For example, swiss chard is killed by the first hard frosts which due to our northern location last all day (little direct solar warming at this time of year). Usually I’m taken by surprise by hard frosts in early November and there’s a panic digging up vegetables and I often have to use an iron bar to get through the ice layer. Not so this year. Thanks to corona and a very mild first part of November, I’ve had more time for the harvest. Last week I lifted the swedes and turnips and yesterday the parsnips, jerusalem artichokes and carrots. Today, I moved all the swiss chards, celery and chicories (sikkori) to large buckets, planted in soil, ready to move quickly inside later in the week if necessary as colder weather is forecast. In the past I’ve stored these winter vegetables in hand made wooden crates filled with soil. However, after 20 or so winters, they’re no longer usable and I hadn’t got round to making new ones, so I will store in these large plastic buckets, which had been purchased to plant the Allium collection, now with a permanent home at the Ringve botanical garden. 
I’ve also been digging up perennial vegetables for winter forcing. This includes various onions – Allium senescensAllium flavescens, Allium angulosum and Allium cernuum.  In addition, I’ve dug a udo (Aralia cordata) root and also a few ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and Hosta “Frances Williams” (sieboldiana). Finally,  I’ve been digging large amounts of my most important winter vegetable, dandelion! (see my 2018 harvest here: https://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=20124)
19th November: the next morning it snowed (see the video at the bottom)!

Harvested swiss chards including the Lucullus type and perpetual spinach (all Beta vulgaris var cicla):

Chards with celeries at the beginning:



Preparing dandelions for forcing

The weather was a bit milder over the last few days, thawing sufficiently so that I could crowbar dandelion roots from the frozen soil and pot them up ready for winter forcing which will give a never ending supply of delicious, nutritious midwinter greens for free later in the winter (just a little effort)!
Just:
1. Dig up the roots

2. Remove (and eat) any green leaves

3. Plant the roots in soil up to the crown and then cover the crowns in a couple of centimetres of clean sand (I use buckets)

4. Store in the coolest place possible to keep them dormant  (it could also be outside if you don’t have a root cellar)

5. Move to a warmer place ( a cool room works well) a couple of weeks before you need the shoots (keep dark if you want delicious blanched shoots)

(This is the same method you can use for forcing chicory, but to my mind dandelions are even tastier and they sow themselves….and all you have to do is NOT to weed and harvest instead!)

 

H for Hablitzia Extreme Salad

The Less than Extreme Salad Man has been in action with the year’s multi-species salad! A few hours before the polar low storm hit and snow covered the greens, I did a forage around the garden, finding about 15 species, mostly onions, but there were fresh dandelions, perennial kales and the first Hablitzia shoots. These were added to a selection of stored vegetables from the cellar, including blanched dandelion and chicory shoots which had grown in the above average temperatures. About 30 different veggies!

Goldfinches

About 10 goldfinches (stillits) in the garden again today, both under the bird feeder, on burdock and chicory seed heads!
Chicory (sikkori) is another great vegetable to let go to seed, save seed for next year and leave some for the birds!

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Thanksgiving Quiche

I contributed this quiche for the Thanksgiving dinner in Hurdal, you might be able to see the word “Takk” (Thanks) written in seeds; T – alpine bistort / harerug bulbils (brown) and AKK – dark poppy seeds; with 100% coarse whole grain emmer wheat / naked barley / rye pastry, with swiss chard, chicory, spring onions, onion, garlic, chantarelle, chili, blue cheese, 5 tomatoes, Begonia and common mallow flowers +++

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