Endive is a member of the chicory family, an underrated group of leafy greens, that is certainly worth getting to know. Appreciated for their tasty bitter tang, all are abundant in the winter and early Spring months. There are several different types of endive, such as Belgian endive, radicchio, escarole and curly endive (aka ‘frisee’).
Belgian endive has elongated creamy white leaves tinged with chartreuse at the top. This comes of it being cultivated in the dark to keep it’s leaves pale. It can have a slightly bitter taste, and in salads is often paired with something sweet, like apple, for an interesting contrast in flavors. The classic Waldorf Salad is a great example. In contrast, radicchio has stunning purple-red and white leaves. It can be round like lettuce or elongated like Belgian endive. It is a winter favorite in Italy where it is often served in risotto or grilled in wedges, or raw in Tricolore Salad. Escarole is more lettuce-like, with grass-green outer leaves and a white heart . It’s leaves are broader and less bitter than other members of the endive family, and is used either sliced into winter salads or cooked in combo with legumes to make tatsy soups. Curly endive, is a favorite French salad green and, as the name suggests, it’s narrow leaves are fringed and tightly curly with a bitter-sweet taste like escarole and a texture to liven up any salad.
Nutritionally, all types of endive pack a similar punch. They are high in folate, needed to produce DNA and help body cells to divide. They are also a source of vitamins A & K, which are important for eye health and blood clotting. The mineral composition of endive is also impressive- endive is a good plant-based source of calcium, manganese and potassium. All types of endive are also high in cancer-preventative nutrients like fiber, antioxidants & phytochemicals like lutein. It is also very low in calories, ideal for anyone trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain once treatment has finished.
Endive works wonderfully in winter salads, and provides more nutrition than standard lettuce. Try our Endive & Pear Salad for a refreshing spring-time lunch. Endive is also delicious braised. Try red radicchio raw in our great Red Winter Salad with Beets and Hazelnuts or cooked in our Risotto with Grilled Radicchio.