Curly or curled endive and escarole are cool-weather vegetables; they are varieties of the same plant. Curly endive has curled, ruffled leaves and escarole has smooth leaves. Curly endive is sometimes called frisee.
Sow endive or escarole seed in the garden as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Seed started indoors for transplanting out can be sown 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost. Grow crops so that they come to harvest before temperatures average higher than 85°F (29°C). Each requires 85 to 100 days to reach harvest.
Description. Endive and escarole are cool-season biennials grown as annuals. Both are salad greens similar to lettuce but stronger flavored. Both are commonly blanched to give them a paler appearance and milder flavor. Both grow from a large rosette of light-green leaves in the center that gradate to dark-green at the outer edges. Escarole has broader leaves; endive is commonly curled and often toothed. Endive is different from Belgian endive which is the young blanched sprout of the chicory plant.
Yield. Plant 2 to 3 plants per household member.
Planting Endive and Escarole
Site. Grow endive and escarole in full sun. These plants prefer well-worked, well-drained soil that is moisture retention. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting and side-dress these crops with compost at midseason. Endive and escarole prefer a soil pH of 5.0 to 6.8.
Planting time. Sow endive or escarole seed in the garden as early as 4 to 6 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Seed started indoors for transplanting out can be sown 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost. Grow crops so that they come to harvest before temperatures average higher than 85°F (29°C); they are more tolerant of heat than lettuce. Each requires 85 to 100 days to reach harvest. Sow succession crops, every 2 weeks beginning in midsummer. In mild-winter regions, grow endive spring, autumn, and winter.
More tips at Endive and Escarole Seed Starting Tips.
Planting and spacing. Sow seeds ¼ inch deep and 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) apart. Thin successful seedlings from 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart. Thinning is important; crowded plants may bolt and go to seed.
Companion plants. Radish, turnips, parsnip. Do not plant with pumpkin or squash.
Container growing. Endive and escarole can be grown singly in a 6-inch (15cm) pot. In larger containers, grow plants on 10-inch (25cm) centers.
Endive and Escarole Care
Water and feeding. Keep planting bed moist and evenly watered so that plants grow quickly; lack of water will slow growth and cause the leaves to become bitter. Add aged compost to planting beds before sowing and side-dress plants with compost at midseason.
Blanching. Endive and escarole are commonly blanched to remove some of their bitter flavor. Blanching covers the heart of the plant depriving leaves of sunlight and slowing the production of chlorophyll which causes the bitter flavor. Blanch endive and escarole 2 to 3 weeks before harvest when outer leaves are 4 to 5 inches (10-12cm) tall. Here are three ways to blanch endive and escarole: (1) Pull the outer leaves together and hold them in place with a tied string or rubber band; be sure leaves are not wet before pulling them together or they may rot; (2) lay a board on supports over the center of the row and the center of the plants; (3) place a flowerpot over each plant. Plants will be blanched in two to three weeks.
Pests. Aphids, cutworms, slugs, and snails may attack endive and escarole. Place a collar around each plant to discourage cutworms. Trap slugs and snail with a saucer of stale beer set flush to the soil. Pinch out aphid infested foliage, or hose aphids off the plant.
Diseases. Endive has no serious disease problems.
Harvesting and Storing Endive and Escarole
Harvest. Endive and escarole are ready for harvest when leaves are 5 to 6 inches (12-15cm) tall, about 85 to 100 days from sowing. Cut off the plant just above soil level; plants will re-sprout for a continuous harvest.
More tips at How to Harvest and Store Endive and Escarole.
Storing and preserving. Endive and escarole will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can freeze, can, or dry endive and escarole.
Endive and Escarole Varieties to Grow
- Curled endive also called frisee: ‘Frisan’ (98 days); ‘Galia’ (45-60 days); ‘Green Curled Ruffec’ (90 days); ‘President’ (80 days); ‘Salad King’ (98 days); ‘Tosca’; ‘Tres Fine Endive’ (48 days).
- Broad-leaf escarole: ‘Broad-leaved Batavian’ (90 days); ‘Coral’; ‘Florida Deep Heart’; ‘Full Heart Batavian’ (90 days); ‘Sinco’ (83 days); ‘Sinco Escarole’.
Common name. Endive, escarole
Botanical name. Cichorium endivia
Origin. South Asia