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Forcing Chicory for Chicons (continued page 2)

Prepare for Forcing
Chicory roots keep very well when stored in moist sand or peat. So the first stage is to harvest the roots in late October to November. Carefully dig them up and remove as much soil as possible from the roots. The size of the roots is crucial for the production of tight well formed chicons.

Select healthy looking roots. Discard any roots (onto the compost heap) which are smaller than 2.5cm (1in) or larger than 5cm (2in) at the crown (top) of the root. Roots which are too small will produce badly formed and small chicons. Roots which are too large will tend to produce two or more chicons which are too small for use.

Trim the tops of the roots removing any foliage and leaving only a 2cm (�in) stub at the top. Use a sharp knife to remove any side shoots from the roots. Place a 2cm (�in) layer of moist sand or peat in a large box and lay the chicory roots on it as close as possible but not touching. Cover with moist sand or peat. As long as the box is kept cool (a few degrees above freezing is ideal) but not frosted, the roots will keep for a couple of months. A dry shed is an ideal place to store chicory roots.

The roots can be removed from storage whenever you wish to start the forcing process. Forcing takes about four to five weeks and each root, ideally, will produce one chicon. Find a container wide enough to take four or more chicons, each separated by a couple of centimetres (1 inch). The container should be at least 20cm (8in) deeper than the longest chicory root.

Fill the container with moist sand, peat or similar to a depth of about 10cm (4in) and place the chicory roots vertically into the soil so that they barely touch the base of the container. The roots can as close to each other as you like but not touching each other. Fill the container up with more moist sand or peat to at least 2.5cm (1in) above the top of the roots.

You can use whatever container you like (plastic bags can used) as long as it has at least 18cm (7in) headroom above the soil. This will allow the chicons to spout from the top of the root and grow. Ideally, after covering the roots, it is best to add another 18cm (7in) of moist sand or peat. that way the chicons will grow through the sand, rather than air, making them more dense and compact.

The container must have all light excluded from it (a plastic bag covering is ideal. It should be stored at between 10 - 15C (50 - 60F). The chicons will be ready for harvest in about four weeks.

To harvest them, cut the chicon off as near to the base of the root crown as possible. This will stop the outer leaves falling off.