What is Endive

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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If you are looking for an interesting way to spice up your salads or your garden, endive can be a worthy and delicious challenge!

What is Endive?

Endive is a type of leafy vegetable, with three main species belonging to the Cichorium genus—endive, wild endive, and chicory. All of these belong to the chicory family, which is where some of the confusion about this vegetable arises. True endive will have curly leaves, while the broader-leafed variety is known as escarole.

The trouble with this vegetable is that is can come in so many different varieties, even within the same species, and has a wide range of names in different parts of the world, ranging from frisee to witloof and radicchio. While these are technically different members of the same family, the names are often interchanged on menus and in markets across the world.

Endive Nutrition

They also boast a significant amount of vitamin A, vitamin K, and certain B vitamins, along with various key minerals, such as manganese, calcium, and iron. There is also a good amount of fiber in endive, which can aid in digestion.

three endives on a brown background

Health benefits associated with this pseudo-exotic vegetable include aiding in liver health, eye health, respiratory distress, high cholesterol levels and even difficulties with diabetes. The low-calorie, nutrient-dense nature of this vegetable, in addition to certain active ingredients and antioxidants, such as kaempferol, which are readily available for human absorption, according to various studies.

What does Endive Taste Like?

While you will occasionally find this delicate leafed vegetable in salads, it is somewhat uncommon, due to its intensive growing process and its slightly bitter flavor. However, depending on the way it is grown, it can also have a slightly sweet flavor, and crisp leaves. The leaves on the same plant, in fact, can have slightly different flavors depending on how old they are!

These small leaf bulbs are pale and slightly yellow, but add a wonderful crunch to salads, as well as a unique, almost peppery flavor

How to Grow Endive?

As mentioned, the growing process for endive is quite complicated, hence its cost and relative rarity. It takes five months for the seed to grow into a leafy plant with a deep taproot. The leaves are removed and the taproots are frozen for long-term storage.

They can then be brought out of that dormancy phase in dark, humid conditions, and the edible plant will appear within a month!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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