March 3, 2014

California Endive


The endive (pronounced on-deev) is a unique and delicious treat that is crisp and bitter when raw, making them a great way to brighten up salads this time of year. When cooked, endive's sharp flavor softens into a mellow sweetness -- whether steamed, grilled or braised.


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.

California Endive Farms

Endive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow and requires a two-step growing process before it is ready for to enjoy. The first growth takes about 150 days in the field, where the chicory grows from seed into a leafy green plant with a deep tap root. At harvest, 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.

Endive Rows

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.

Rich Red & White 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!