Italian Chicory Dandelion
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Seed Count: Approx. 100 seeds
Days to Maturity: 65 days; Perennial
Description: Italian Chicory Dandelion (Cichorium Intybus) is not a true Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale), although its leaves are similar in appearance. Italian Dandelions grow more upright, growing from 2-4 ft. tall, have larger, deeper green leaves, and boast clusters of 1-3, adorable, pastel blue blooms. Originally native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, their nutritious leaves and flowers, and can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked in soups, and sautés. When cooked, its flavor is similar to collard greens. However, chicory is more commonly known for its root being dried and roasted to be used as a coffee substitute, or added to coffee to enhance its flavor. In general, it's an easy growing plant, that will grow anywhere, as long as it's sunny, with relatively fertile, well draining soil. Plus, if you grow it, your friendly neighborhood pollinators will thank you. Be careful when growing this flower, since it will reseed itself easily and can become very invasive. Seeds can take up to 21 days to germinate, and it grows best in zones 3-9.
How To Grow
Sowing: You can direct sow your seeds after your last frost date, and again midsummer to take advantage of the fall growing season. Italian Dandelions prefer soil temperatures 50-75 degrees to germinate. Germination should occur within 2-15 days, but can take up to 21 days. Sow seeds about 1/4 inch deep, and once large enough, thin plants to have 12-18 inches between each plant. You can plant them closer if you do not mind baby greens, or feeding and watering them more. Keep the dirt evenly moist.
Growing: Since Italian Dandelions love sunny locations, it will appreciate being planted in a full sun location. Regular watering, a good fertilizing with phosphorus and potassium, or the addition of compost is important to produce good quality greens. However, too much nitrogen and excessive heat may force plants to bolt quickly.
Harvesting: Italian Dandelions make for a great cut and come again variety, but you can harvest the entire plant at the base, and most will grow back again. The leaves taste best when picked young, but they can be harvested up until they flower. Do not dry or freeze these greens, as they do not store well and lose their flavor. However, you can cut and keep them in the refridgerator for a few days. Roots are ready to be harvested anytime after 4 months of growth, as long as it is before the ground freezes. To harvest flowers for culinary use, cut flower heads that have just opened. To dry, spread them out away from direct sunlight, turning them occasionally, or you can use a dehydrator to dry your flowers as well. When your flowers are crisp and dry, store them in an airtight container for up to a year. To save seeds, wait until the developing seeds easily come loose from the seed head. To reduce the spread of these seeds, bag the seed heads before seeds are fully mature. Remove the seed heads, and spread them out to further dry, away from direct sunlight. When thoroughly dried, thresh out the seeds to separate them from the husk, then store your seeds in a cool, dry place.