Vegetable Seed Production

Chicory :: Endive :: Globe Artichoke :: Lettuce

Plant Characteristics

  • Asteraceae is a huge family with about 800 genera and 20,000 species that is represented throughout the world. (Compositae is the old name still used by some people.)
  • Most members of this family are annual or perennial herbs many grow as weeds or wild flowers in the Eastern US, a few are woody but not usually classified as true trees
  • Plants are erect, twining or drooping, sometimes with milky juice, often with strong aromatic qualities
  • Leaves are quite varied, alternate, opposite or whorled

Flower Characteristics

Dandelion is a member of this family, so think about how a dandelion flower looks as you read the following botanical description of flower morphology:

  • The old family name Compositae that is still used by some to describe this family is derived from the many blossoms combined into a single flower head to form a compound or composite flower.
  • Flowers bisexual or unisexual, aggregated into small or large compact heads (flowers).
  • The corolla of the flower is 4-5 lobed or toothed and there are 4 or 5 stamens alternating with the corolla lobes and joined by their anthers to form a ring around the style with the two long stigmas protruding.
  • There is a single ovary in each flower which develops into a 1-celled fruit called an achene, usually crowned with a pappus (this is the parachute like structure that allows dandelion achenes to float in the wind).
  • Flowers are borne on a modified and enlarged receptacle, each one subtended by a scale or bract.

Common Name: Chicory
Scientific Name: Cichorium intybus
Family: Asteraceae

Chicory introduction & history

Many diverse and distinct forms exist in this species. The green leafy vegetable that resembles dandelion is called foliage chicory and is popular in some parts of Europe. Cultivars that produce a small red to green colored head are called radicchio. Cultivars that are forced to produce narrow leafy heads called a chicon are called Witloof, Witloof chicory, French endive, Belgium endive. All of the leafy forms of chicory tend to have a bitter flavor that is not liked by many Americans. Chicory roots may also be used as an adulterant and/or substitute for coffee.

Probably native to Asia and for Mediterranean Europe and probably used as a non-cultivated salad plant for centuries.

Chicory Seed Identification page

Common Name: Endive
Scientific Name: Cichorium endivia

Endive introduction & history

Not a type of lettuce as commonly advertised in the grocery but a distinct vegetable from a different genus and closely related to chicory. Endive is grown for use as a salad ingredient either added to and/or taking the place of lettuce. Broad leaved cultivars are occasionally used as potherbs in stews or soups. Many people dislike the slight bitterness of endive, others favor it.

Endive is somewhat more tolerant to heat than lettuce. Relatively easy to grow, yet it is not a very popular vegetable and US production is quite limited.

The crop is grown much like lettuce and rapid continuous growth is encouraged to assure tender crisp leaves. Years ago, the leaves were blanched, supposedly to reduce bitterness, increase tenderness and appearance. This was done by tying outer leaves together to cover the crown or by covering the plants with straw, etc.

Thought to be East Indian in origin. Eaten by Egyptians and Greeks long before the Christian era.

Endive Seed Identification page

Common Name: Globe Artichoke
Scientific Name: Cynara scolymus
Family: Asteraceae

Globe Artichoke introduction & history

Globe artichoke (also known as green artichoke or French artichoke) is a cool season herbaceous perennial dicot grown for its immature flower bud called a capitulum

Each mature plant will produce 5 to 8 marketable buds per season and a few smaller buds that are not marketable.

Acclimated plants can survive low temperatures of 20 F with little damage, but flower buds can be damaged at 30 F

The edible portions of the bud are the tender bases of the bracts and the fleshy receptacle (heart).

At full maturity, artichoke plants can be 4-5 feet tall and 5-6 feet in diameter.

Globe artichokes were apparently popular in second century Rome, but it was not until 1400 A.D. that the first records of the production of modern globe artichoke cultivars were recorded in Naples, Italy. Globe artichokes were introduced by early colonists from France and Italy. Thomas Jefferson was fond of globe artichokes after he lived in France as the French Ambassador and grew them at Monticello in the early 19th century.

Globe Artichoke Seed Identification page

Common Name: Lettuce
Scientific Name: Lactuca sativa

Lettuce introduction & history

Tall annual and perennial herbs, mostly from the northern hemisphere, about 100 species, most are weeds. Leaves are alternate and variable and flower heads borne on small long irregular panicles. Achenes oval to linear, flat, plainly 3-5 ribbed on either side, a soft, thin white or brown pappus is elevated on a beak.

As judged by paintings of leaves identified as lettuce in some Egyptian tombs, it appears lettuce was cultivated as far back as 4500 BC. These paintings further suggest that it was a common crop widely known and appreciated. The leaves appear to represent those of the Romaine type.

Lettuce spread throughout the Mediterranean basin at an early date. Numerous Greek and Roman references cite its use. Lettuce was probably spread via Romans to the rest of Europe. Post Columbus movement brought lettuce from Europe to the New World.

Most types of commercial lettuce, and particularly crisphead types, have been genetically modified by human selection or plant breeding so they can no longer survive as wild plants. Early selection by humans probably was based on non-shattering, delayed bolting, non-spininess, decrease in latex (white sap), increased seed size, and heading characteristics. Selection for greater bolting resistance and resistance to disease was relatively recent.

Therefore, cultivated lettuce has an uncertain origin since it does not exist in the wild. Modern lettuce is believed to be derived from L. serriola. The sativa-serriola complex is large, polymorphic, and capable of free interchange of genes with little or no reduction in fertility. L. sativa may have been derived directly from L. serriola through selection.

Lettuce Seed Production and Identification page