Escarole - Batavian Broadleaf

Avg seeds/pkt 240

Broadleaf escarole is often added to minestrone and stews, served fresh with a warm sweet and sour dressing, or braised with white beans. When cooked it is mild-flavored and soft but not mushy. Fresh, it has a sweet taste and is a little crunchier than your average head of lettuce.

Four weeks before your average last frost, gently work compost and a granular organic fertilizer into well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Plant seeds 1/4-inch deep and 2 inches apart with 18 inches between rows and make sure the soil stays moist.

Escarole can germinate at 45°F but it will come up faster in warmer soils. When leaves are two inches high, thin plants to one every 10 inches. When plants are four inches high, side-dress with more compost. Plants reach maturity at 80 days and are best harvested before summer temperatures go above 75°F.

Although Broadleaf escarole can be somewhat self-blanching–that is, the inner leaves stay pale, tender and extra mild–a bit of help before harvest usually works wonders. When the plant is dry, tie a two-foot length of ribbon or string around the top third of the outer leaves to pull them in tight and block sunlight. Two weeks later harvest as usual.

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