Endive is grown from chicory roots in a dark environment, which is why their tender leaves are such a light yellow. Most people refer to this variety as Belgian endive although it could be called the refined cousin of the chicory family, with its tightly packed leaves and smooth, elongated shape. This versatile veggie can be prepared in many ways: appetizers, salads, stuffed, side dishes and can even take center stage as a main dish. A great way to serve them is to use the leaves in the form of a "boat" and stuff the leaves with goodies like soft cheese, avocado or fruit salad. You can also use them as substitute for chips and eat them with your favorite dip.
As demand necessitates, roots are removed from cold storage for their second growth, which takes 28 days in dark, cool, humid forcing rooms, similar to a mushroom growing facility. The control over the initiation of this second growing process allows for the year-round production of endive.
Although these delicate beauties were once imported from Belgium and Holland, Rich Collins started growing them in California more than thirty years ago. His family farm was started in 1983, with just five acres. Originally named Rebel Farms, because many doubted that Belgian-style endive could be successfully grown in America. Today, California Endive Farms cultivates 300 acres in Rio Vista, CA and is the largest grower of red endive in the world.
A big thank you to the Collins family for sharing this specialty crop with our CSA family!