This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Cichbrium Intybus, Linn.). Composite Fig. 918. A native of Europe, naturalized in America and familiar to many as a weed, is a pot-herb, a salad, and the leading adulterant of coffee It came prominently before the public in the late nineties and the early years of this century as an American farm crop. Prior to that year, its cultivation as an adulterant and substitute for coffee was largely prevented by the prejudice of the principal consumers, our foreign-born population, who insisted that American was inferior to European root, and also by the low tariff, which allowed the root to enter duty free, or with a very small impost. During 1898 and 1899 advantage was taken of a protective duty, and several factories were erected, for which farmers grew the roots. For a few years our home market was supplied from American fields in part. But even the substitution of horse-power for manual labor, improved plows and cultivating implements for crude ones, machine-digging of the roots for hand-digging, efficient slicing machines, and improved evaporating kilns did not make the business satisfactory.
There was not enough money in it either to growers or to manufacturers, so it has been abandoned.
Chicory will probably succeed wherever the sugar beet is grown in this country, the climatic requirements being similar. In general, it may be said to thrive upon all stone-free soils that will produce paying staple crops, except clays, lightest sands and mucks. The first are too hard, the second too dry, the third too rich in nitrogen and too sour. The surface layer of soil should be deep, the subsoil open and well drained. If the water-supply be sufficient, high land is as good as low land of the same texture, though if too dry for profitable grain-growing, the former may yet be made to produce chicory; but if too wet for cereals, the latter will generally be found unsuitable for this root. The fertilizing of the land should be the same as for other root-crops, nitrogen being used sparingly, potash and phosphoric acid rather freely-one and one-fourth to one and one-half times as much of the former and two and one-half times the latter as has been removed by the preceding crop. It is best to apply these fertilizers to preceding crops that do not make heavy demands upon them. In rotation, chicory is classed with root-crops, and should be preceded by a small grain, since this is harvested in time for fall plowing.
Clover should not immediately precede, since it leaves too much nitrogen in the soil. The ground being warm, fairly moist, thoroughly prepared by deep plowing, harrowing and scarifying with a weeder, the seed, which must be fresh and clean, is sown rather thickly but covered thinly, in drills 18 inches apart.
Fig. 918. Improved chicory root. (X 1/4)
There are but few well-defined varieties of this plant used for field culture, and even the garden sorts are not so stable as could be desired. Of the former group, Magdeburg, Brunswick and Schlesische are the principal; of the latter, Witloof (so-called), Red Italian, Broad-leaved, Improved Variegated and Curled-leaved are best known. Witloof and Barbe de Capucin can be produced from any variety, the difference being brought about by the method of growing.
Chicory has no specific enemies in this country, and is troubled by only a few of the general-feeding insects, such as cut-worms and wire-worms.
From six to ten tons is the general acre yield, although with good management fifteen tons may be produced. The cost of growing and the returns are about as follows: Rent, wear of tools, etc., $5; preparation of land, $4.50; seed, 75 cents; cultivating and tending, $15; harvesting and delivering, $12; total, $37.25. Average price the ton, $7.
From a purely horticultural standpoint, chicory is of interest as a root, a pot-herb, and a salad plant. The young tender roots are occasionally boiled and served with butter, pepper and salt, like young carrots, but they have never become widely popular in this form. As a pot-herb, the young leaves are equal to those of dandelion. They are cut when 6 to 8 inches long, boiled in two waters to remove the bitter flavor, and served like spinach. As a salad, chicory is famous in three forms: Common Blanched, Barbe de Capucin and Witloof. Barbe de Capucin is comprised of small blanched leaves. Witloof is a more solid head. The pink, red and curled varieties make a very pretty appearance, and, if well grown and served fresh, are delicious, there being only a slightly bitter flavor. The method of growing for salads is the same as for endive.
For Barbe and Witloof, well-grown roots are dug in October, trimmed of unnecessary roots and of all but an inch of top. For Barbe, the roots are laid horizontally in tiers in moist earth, the whole forming a sloping heap, the crowns of the roots protruding an inch or so. Since darkness is essential, a warm vegetable cellar is the usual place selected to grow this vegetable, which requires three or four weeks to produce its fine white leaves. These are cut when about 6 inches long, eaten as a salad, boiled like kale or cut up like slaw. If undisturbed, the roots will continue to produce for several weeks. The most rapid way to produce Witloof is to plunge the roots (shortened to 5 inches) in spent tanbark, or such material, and cover with 2 feet or more of manure, the space under a greenhouse bench being used. In about two weeks, heads resembling cos lettuce may be dug up, boiled like brus-sels sprouts, or served as salad. If the roots be left in place, protected from the light, but uncovered, a crop of leaves resembling Barbe may be gathered. Sowing and other cultural management is the same as for other garden roots, as beets and carrots. It is a pity that these vegetables are so little known in this country.
Witloof is a popular winter vegetable in the larger cities of the East. Much of it is imported from Europe.
Chicory has run wild along roadsides and in dry fields in many parts of the country, and is considered to be a bad weed. However, the handsome sky-blue flowers (Fig. 962), which open only in sunshine, are very attractive. M. G. Kains.