Photo from Carolyn Jung at foodgal.com
Endive (ˈen-ˌdīv, ˌän-ˈdēv) pronounced ‘on-deeve’ is a leafy plant closley related to daisies. It is can be served raw or cooked. Mild and pleasantly bitter, endive is actually a secondary leafy growth from the chicory root. Some chicory root is used in coffee as an additive. Many varieties exist and the common endive seen in most supermarkets is the California red and white. Endive may be beyond the recreational gardeners grasp when it comes to growing. There is a two-step process before it is ready to be harvested. The first growth involves 150 days in the field, where the chicory grows from seed into a leafy green plant with a deep tap root. Come harvest time the tops of the leafy chicory plant are cut off, the roots dug up, and then placed in cold storage where they enter a dormancy period. Required roots for consumption are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 28 days in dark, cool, humid rooms. At which time the familiar tight bundles of leaves have matured. I’d like to make a side note that I just went ahead and renamed this plant “enDIVA” because it is so high maintenance. It is high in beta carotene and potassium. It has been thought to aid in lowering cholesterol and slow food metabolism.
I’ve been to a few holiday parties this season and all had the staple crackers and cheese board or chip and dip fare. The wheat in the crackers can have an adverse affect on the body as we all know and it’s easy to get carried away, especially with a good dip. A great alternative to using crackers as a mode of food transportation are separated leaves of the endive. It’s also a very green (pun intended) way to serve individual appetizers as an alternative to multiple small plates or fancy serving spoons. While most will encounter this plant in it’s raw form it can also be grilled as a side or baked into savory breads and biscuits; there’s always my favorite, slicing them in half, wrapping in bacon and baking. Endive is available all year round and can be found at many farmers markets. Next time you have a gathering or want a healthier alternative to chips or just need variety in your salad grab an endive.