Among the wonderful varieties of greens available to grow late in the season there is escarole. What is escarole? Keep reading to find out how to grow escarole and how to take care of escarole.
What is Escarole?
Escarole, related to endive, is a cool season biennial commonly cultivated as an annual. Like chard, kale and radicchio, escarole is a hearty green that thrives late in the growing season. Escarole has smooth, broad, green leaves that are commonly used in salad. The flavor of escarole is less bitter than other members of the endive family, very much akin to the taste of radicchio. It grows from a large rosette of light green leaves that gradate outwards to dark green on the outer edges.
Escarole is high in vitamins A and K as well as folic acid. Usually, eaten raw, escarole is also sometimes lightly cooked with a simple wilting of the green or chopped into soup.
How to Grow Escarole
Plant escarole in full sun in well-draining soil that is amended with compost to aid in water retention. The soil should have a pH of 5.0 to 6.8.
Propagation from seed should start 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date for your area. Seeds can also be started indoors for later transplantation 8-10 weeks before the last average frost date. While they are more tolerant of heat than lettuce, the plan when growing escarole plants is to have them harvestable before temps regularly get into the 80’s. It takes 85-100 days until it’s time for harvesting escarole.
Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. Thin the seedlings to 6-12 inches apart. Growing escarole plants should be spaced 18-24 inches apart.
Care of Escarole
Keep the escarole plants consistently moist. Allowing the plants to dry out too frequently will result in bitter greens. Side-dress the escarole plants with compost midway through their growing season.
Escarole is often blanched. This entails covering the plant to deprive it of sunlight. This slows the production of chlorophyll, which can make the greens bitter. Blanch escarole 2-3 weeks before harvesting when the exterior leaves are 4-5 inches long. You can blanch several different ways.
The most common methods is to simply pull the outer leaves together and secure them with a rubber band or string. Make sure the leaves are dry so they don’t rot.
You could also cover the plants with a flower pot, or use your imagination and come up with another solution.
The point is to deprive the escarole of sunlight. Blanching takes between 2-3 weeks at which time you can begin harvesting escarole.
Escarole can be sown every 2 weeks beginning in midsummer for continuous crops through the growing season or in areas with mild winters, in the spring, fall and winter. It can also be easily grown in pots for those without an actual garden plot.