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Chicory or chicory?!

turmericturmeric Posts: 825
Hello veg experts.  I'm a bit confused.  I identified chicory growing in a field near me, it was a blue daisy flowered perennial.  Then Monty harvested chicory on Friday in GW and obviously that looked like a lettuce.  The latin names for both seem to be Cichorium latybus so no difference between them there to help me.  So why is the same plant producing a lettuce type plant whilst also producing a flowering perennial without the lettuce style basal leaves?  I'm very confused.  It would make sense if they were both called chicory but differed in latin name, but they don't. Any ideas anyone?


  • turmericturmeric Posts: 825
    Sorry, it should have been Cichorium intybus not latybus.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 82,757
    It's all basically the same plant, but the ones we grow in the veg patch are improved versions.  There's the radicchio type that Monty was growing the other day, and there's the Witloof type which is used to produce 'forced chicons' by blanching them in the dark.  

    If you look here and scroll down to 'Cultivation' it explains it more comprehensively
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • The wild strain grows as a biennial here, looks just like lettuce the first year, and I often use a few leaves in the kitchen.  In the 2nd year, it develops the flowering shoots (flowers are edible and tasty) and then dies over the following winter.  Strictly speaking, it's a short-lived perennial and can survive the winter and flower for several years in some areas, but the cultivars grown and used for food are harvested in their first year.  It's the stored energy in the tightly packed hearts (which will would normally be used to produce the flowering stems in the second year) which makes them a useful crop.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • turmericturmeric Posts: 825
    Thanks Dove and Bob.  Dove, I've just read through the article you sent which was helpful.  From what Bob is saying (and the feeling I got from the article) am I right in thinking that there would have been a chicory/radicchio looking lettuce at ground level before the whole plant became the leggy blue daisy plant that I saw?  I can't seem to find any named cultivars online to separate the flowering plant from the edible traditional lettuce that we all know so I'm assuming they're one and the same but that one follows the other over time?   
  • I've just nipped down the garden and taken these photos of self-sown ones, which germinated earlier this year, if it helps:

    Included for free are a selection of my finest weeds! :D
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • turmericturmeric Posts: 825
    That's what confuses me Bob, Monty's 'chicory' was a tight head of leaves (which is what I'm familiar with from the shops) but the early signs of the blue daisy type plant seem to be a rosette of basal leaves that don't resemble the tight head at all.  Thanks for going out to take those pictures, it's pouring down here so I hope you didn't get wet! :)
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    edited October 2021
    Yes, the 'food type' have been selectively bred to produce larger and larger 'hearts' over time (this will have been going on centuries in the case of chicory, probably) and these then get named as varieties.  This selective cross-pollinating has resulted in the food types each having a different genetic makeup to the wild type, so while they are still classified as Chicorum intybus, they are not actually the same plant.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • turmericturmeric Posts: 825
    Thank you so much, you've been a huge help Bob.
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