Chicory

A herbaceous, leafy vegetable with a zesty and spicy flavour.

Alternative Name

Belgian endive, blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, chicons, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, wild endive, witloof, witlof

Scientific Name

Cichorium intybus

Health benefits

Heart Immune system

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Chicory has smooth, firm white leaves with pale yellow tips. It has a slightly bitter and nutty flavour. It also comes in a purple and red variety. Both are now available in many supermarkets, and fruit and vegetable shops. Sometimes chicory is confused with endive; although leaf chicory is often called 'endive', true endive is a different—though related—species.

Information for farmers+

Harvesting
Chicory maturity is based on chicon size and compactness, which varies according to cultivar and the quality of the tap root (amount of carbohydrate reserves). The firm heads are harvested by snapping from the root. Quality is based on size, compactness, shape, and colour. After trimming outer leaves, the chicons should be white with closed cream-yellow points and not have any torn leaves. Chicons rapidly turn green if exposed to light and the flavor changes. Good quality chicons do not have any traces of green but are white with cream-yellow leaf edges. Breakage of the outer leaf margins often occurs during harvest, trimming and packing and causes increased browning and increased susceptibility to bacterial decay.

Postharvest storage temperature
To optimise postharvest quality, chicons should be stored at 0°C, giving an expected shelf life of 21–28 days. At 5°C a shelf life of about 14 days can be expected. Placing chicons on ice for retail display will cause discolouration. During storage, freeze damage can occur if chicons are stored at <-0.1°c. freeze damage weakens the leaves and can lead to more rapid bacterial decay.>

Controlled atmosphere storage
Some benefit to shelf-life can be obtained with low O2 (3–4%) and high CO2 to (4–5%) atmospheres at temperatures of 0–5°C. CA retards the development of browning on leaf edges. CO2 atmospheres also retard discolouration of the butt. To control greening, extremely low O2 concentrations (<0.1%) are required.>

Ethylene sensitivity
Witloof chicory or Belgian endive is moderately sensitive to ethylene exposure. The main symptoms of injury are accelerated decay and discolouration of the leaf margins. Ethylene could also be expected to induce leaf abscission, but this effect may require a very long period at low storage temperatures.

Humidity storage
Store at >95% relative humidity. Exposure to light will turn the chicons green and they become unmarketable. Packaging in paper liners in unvented boxes ensures dark storage during distribution. However at retail, the chicons turn green within a few hours at 10–15°C of exposure to display lights. Therefore only a few should be removed from the box at a time to reduce exposure to light.

Disease & infection
Decay is not a common cause of postharvest losses of witloof chicory. However, bacterial rots caused by numerous bacteria can occur and result in a slimy breakdown of the infected tissue. Trimming outer leaves, rapid cooling and low storage temperature reduce development of bacterial rots.

Preparation & Storage+
Do not peel. Keep in vegetable drawer of fridge.
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Veggy tip

Chicory can be used raw in salads or braised and served as a side. Steaming is the best way to retain nutrients.