Harvesting the chicory plant: how to harvest the chicory root in the garden

In its region of origin, near the Mediterranean Sea, chicory is a wild flower with bright and joyful flowers. But it is also a hardy plant because its roots and leaves are edible. The time of chicory harvest depends on the reason for which it is cultivated. Below you will find information and tips on harvesting chicory leaves and roots.

Chicory Harvest

Chicory began as a beautiful blue wildflower that grew like a weed in the Mediterranean region of Europe. Although it has been cultivated for over 1,000 years, it has not changed much from its wild form.

Many parts of chicory are edible, and it is a vegetable used in three different ways. Part of the chicory is grown commercially for its strong roots which are dried and roasted. Once ground, the chicory root is used as a coffee-type beverage.

Garden chicory is generally of the witloof or radicchio type. Both can be grown for their greenness, and harvesting the chicory plant involves collecting the chicory leaves. They are slightly bitter like dandelion leaves, which has earned them the name Italian dandelion.

The third use of the chicory plant applies only to witloof chicory. The roots are harvested and used to force new edible leaves called chacones.

When to harvest chicory

If you are wondering when to harvest chicory, the time of harvest varies depending on the use you want to make of the plant. Those who grow chicory for their green vegetables should start harvesting the leaves when they are tender but large enough. This can happen three to five weeks after planting.

If you grow chicory, the plant can grow in leaves or free heads. The chicory plant must be harvested when the leaves or heads are fully developed.

How to harvest chicory root

If you grow chicory in frost-free conditions and plan to use the roots to force the chicory, you will need to harvest the crop just before the first autumn frost. This is usually in September or October. Remove the leaves, then lift the roots from the ground.

You can prune the roots to a uniform size, then store them for a month or two at near-freezing temperatures before forcing them. Forcing is done in total darkness by placing the roots in the wet sand and allowing them to produce leaves. The new leaves are called chicory and should be ready to harvest in three to five weeks.

As with large carrots, the roots harvested as a vegetable are ready when the crown reaches about 5-7 cm (13-18 cm) in diameter. The usable part of the taproot can be up to 9 cm (23 cm) long. After cleaning and removing the soil, the roots can be cubed and roasted for grinding. Ideally, they should be used within a few days of harvest, as they are not normally stored well for long periods of time.

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