Sugarloaf chicory is a surprising leafy green perennial.
Cousin to radicchio and Belgian endive, and similar in appearance to Romaine lettuce, sugarloaf chicories (Cichorium intybus) mature into football-shaped heads that can be grown and cut, year after year.
Like other chicories, sugarloaf chicory, also known as sugarloaf borca and green radicchio, is more bitter than most salad greens. These loaves of green are often braised or grilled before eating, to reduce the bitterness and to bring out more of their sweetness.
How to grow sugarloaf chicory
Sugarloaf chicory can be grown from seed, or you can let it self-seed and go a little wild. Ultimately, you can also propagate these greens using division. Seeds should be planted 1/4” deep and thinned to 12 to 18” between plants.
In most parts of the country, sugarloaf chicories are planted in late spring and early summer for autumn and early winter harvests. Here in California, sugarloaf chicory is an excellent winter crop, as long as the soil does not stay soggy. Sugarloaf chicories are very drought tolerant plants. They grow best in loose soil with good drainage, making them an excellent choice for raised beds. Plants mature in 80 days, on average.
Sugarloaf chicory can be harvested on a leaf-by-leaf, as needed basis, or the head can be allowed to mature and then cut the whole thing off just above the soil. The plant will, in most cases, regrow. Sugarloaf chicory can also be forced and blanched the same way Belgian endive is managed.
Sugarloaf chicory pests and diseases
Aphids, darkling beetles, flea beetles, leaf miners, loopers, and thrips are the most common pests, along with slugs and snails. Fungal diseases, such as anthracnose, bottom rot, downy mildews, fusarium wilt, septoria blight, and white mold can often be avoided by ensuring proper drainage and good spacing between plants. Damping-off disease and bacterial soft rot may also occur.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!