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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Endive and Escarole

Escarole 1
Grow endive in the garden

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. Seeds 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.

Curly endive in planting bed
Plant endive and escarole so that they come to harvest before temperatures average higher than 85°F

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. Seeds 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 growing in rowsEndive and Escarole Care

Water and feeding. Keep the 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 flavors. 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 snails 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.

broad leaf endive
Broad-leaf endive

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.

Curled endive
Curled endive also called frisee

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

Grow 80 vegetables: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. I like knowing that I can go to a gardening website with my questions on problems in the garden. Especially with my escarole. It seems like its bolting so early in the season. It is growing straight up in the middle and not producing enough outer leaves. What is going on? Hope you can answer this. Thank you.

    • Bolting escarole is commonly the result of rising temperatures. Our cool-season crop seasons may be changing slightly with warming temperatures. Once a plant bolts, it puts its energy into seed production and leaves leaf production behind. Look for bolt resistant varieties or varieties that can tolerate warmer temperatures– or start your cool leafy crop season earlier next year.

      • When you say “bolt” , does that mean the plant is growing tall and straight, not many larger leaves, and what looks like seed or flower pods forming? Planted seedlings about 3cweeks ago, not realizing it was such a cool weather plant…we had about 7 to 10 very hot humid days in a row the cooler days…. kept everything watered but endive is just growing tall…and spinach is just brown and withered.. can endive be saved and nursed along til September for cooler temps?

        • Yes, bolt or bolting is a gardening term for a plant that shoots up a flower stalk, flowers, and drops seed. It is the natural course of many annuals including leafy crops. Endive, lettuce, arugula, and spinach commonly bolt (send up tall flower stalks) when the weather becomes too warm for the plant; Mother Nature tells the plant to flower and produce seed before it dies–this ensures the next generation.

    • Once the cool-season escarole bolts, the leaves will become bitter tasting. Bolting signals the end of the plant’s natural life. You can trim away the flower stall, but it will likely bolt again. The best course is to pull the plant and replant at the end of summer for a cool-weather autumn harvest.

    • Endive should grow with no problems near currants and gooseberries. The fruit bushes may send their roots toward the endive–since endive is shallow-rooted and you will be watering those plants more often.

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