Endive are so special that they are grown twice. Though they were originally discovered by accident, they are truly a labor of love to farm and produce. The world’s largest producer of endive, Rich Collins of California Endive, happens to be right in our backyard of Rio Vista, California.
The cool weather crop is part of the chicory family and is related to other winter greens like radicchio, frisee and escarole. In the 1830’s a Belgian man forgot he was storing chicory roots in his cellar. To his surprise, the roots had sprouted into lovely leaves, which he called endive – what a happy surprise! The twice grown crop became quite popular, and was even called “white gold” by the French.
Endive looks like a mini and less round head of lettuce. Their leaves are small, tightly packed and curled like little boats. They can be a beautiful cabernet red color or a very pale yellow-green, sometimes nearly white. Endive has a crisp texture and robust flavor. The nutrient rich outer leaves of endive tend to be nuttier with a mild bitterness while the inner leaves are sweeter.
Endive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow and goes through a lengthy growing process. They start out as chicory seeds, which are planted in a field. After 150 days beautiful leafy greens and deep roots evolve. When they first are harvested, the leafy chicories are cut off and the roots are dug up then put into cold storage where they become dormant. The roots are moved from cold storage to dark and humid rooms when they are ready for their second growth. They spend 28 days in these growing rooms until they sprout into endive.
Most endive in the United States comes from our great friend, Rich Collins of California Endive.