Cichorium intybus (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cichorium intybus L.

Family: Compositae

Vernacular names

  • Brussels chicory, witloof (En)
  • Chicorée witloof (Fr)
  • Vietnam: diếp xoăn.


Native to Europe, western Asia and Central Russia. Introduced (cultivated and wild), mainly in temperate regions.


The bitter leaves are a favourite vegetable in Europe but not very well known in South-East Asia. A red-leaved variety is used in salads, also occasionally in South-East Asia. The root can serve as a substitute for coffee.


  • Perennial herb with milky sap and a strong taproot, up to 1.5 m tall when flowering.
  • Basal leaves in a radical rosette, oblong or oblong-spatulate, 10-37 cm × 2-11 cm.

Green leaves can be eaten but usually it is grown for its blanched heads of rosette leaves: the "witloof". Cultivation is complicated; first a straight root has to be grown in a loose soil. After harvesting the whole plant, the leaves are cut off and next the roots are replanted and covered with soil or grown in the dark to allow the blanched leaf-heads to develop. When they are about 15 cm high they are harvested. Witloof is rare in tropical regions but adapted hybrids have potential for cultivation at higher altitudes. A red, non-blanched, Italian type with prominent white midribs ("radicchio rosso") is becoming more popular, in the tropics too. Cultivars of the Brussels chicory can be classified in cv. group Foliosum; those of the coffee chicory in cv. group Sativum.

Selected sources

7, 53, 57, 62, 65, 66.