You’ve likely seen, and have probably even eaten or purchased, a chicory of some kind. There are different types of chicories, but the more commonly known cultivars include radicchio, endive, frisée, and escarole. Early to mid-spring is the peak season for chicories when crisp weather helps lock in their signature crunch and flavor.

Although often used raw in salads, many chicory varieties like endive and radicchio are delightful when cooked. Braising and grilling these bitter vegetables helps to bring out a contrasting sweetness and texture.

Creamy, rich flavors from ingredients like white beans, butter, and cheese (plant-based or dairy) pair perfectly with cooked chicories. Chopped up escarole is an exceptionally satisfying leafy green to try in a slow-simmered soup, while brightness from other seasonal stars like kumquats will add beautiful citrus flavors in salads.

Expert advice

Avoid cutting chicories with a knife, as they tend to oxidize quickly. Instead, use your hands to tear the leaves when needed.

Fun fact

Common chicory root became a popular substitute for coffee during the 18th and 19th centuries due to increased coffee bean scarcity and prices. It remains a common substitute for or addition to coffee in many areas of the world, most popularly in New Orleans.

Garden planners

San Diego Master Gardeners say the best planting dates are September to May for coastal growers and September to April for inland zones.


To grow, try starting from seed with a packet of regionally adapted Gourmet Blend Chicory Seeds from San Diego Seed Company for a mix of green, purple, red, and white Italian heirloom chicories. Community seed banks and swaps are also great places to share different varieties and growing tips.


5 chicory varieties

Belgian endive




Chicory root

3 seasonal recipes featuring chicories

Endive and Frisée Salad with Citrus and Balsamic

endive, frisee, and citrus in a salad
Image: Chris Rov Costa for Edible San Diego.

Grilled Radicchio with Nectarines and Parmesan

Image: Olivia Hayo for Edible San Diego.

Escarole Salad with Tomato Dressing

Image source:

Originally published in issue 73.

Cover image by Haley Hazell for Edible San Diego.
About the Contributor
Liz Murphy
‍Liz Murphy is a local plant-based chef and sustainability warrior. Find her new cookbook, Kitchen Contentment at or look for it at local San Diego shops.More sustainable gifts from the writer of The Sustainable Foodist: Guide to Giving Planet-Friendly GiftsSantosha Nutrition offers a plant-based cooking class with Chef Liz, a unique and fun gift for cooks of any level. Certificates include an interactive virtual or in-person cooking experience, with three recipes in a digital recipe packet with instructions. Find more info here.The cookbook Kitchen Contentment: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking with Plants contains over 50 vegan and gluten-free recipes. Chef Liz’s first cookbook is arranged by season to encourage support for local farmers and shops. The book is printed sustainably through a carbon-neutral process on recycled paper. Find yours here.