Curious about that pleasantly bitter crunch you recently enjoyed in a salad? Chances are it was endive, as it is beginning to show up everywhere. With good reason. Once available only as an import from Belgium, compact little heads of greenish-white or red endive now originate from dark growing rooms at California Vegetable Specialties (CVS) in the agricultural Sacramento River Delta area, thanks to mastermind Richard Collins. CVS is the only producer of endive in the U.S., selling over 4 million pounds per year.
Endive is not just another pretty face, nor is it simply the latest food fad. Its presence has withstood the test of time, for it is definitely the most versatile of the chicory family: a natural-born scooper for dips; an edible container for appetizers; and a must for chic salads. And as of late the European tradition of serving endive warm in soups, sides, and entrees is finally catching on. (Type "endive" in the Recipe Search box here on Project Foodie, or just click here, and you'll come up with plenty of ways to incorporate it into your everyday meals.)
As if tasting great and being "in season" all year long is not enough, endive is believed to have some significant health benefits: Dr. Oz named endive as the #1 vegetable to cut the risk of ovarian cancer. (In a study of 62,000 women, those who consumed 1 head--a mere 1 cup sliced or chopped, raw--per week reduced their chances of contracting this form of cancer by a whopping 75%.)
Look for endive the next time you're in the produce section. And don't balk at the price: on a per-pound basis, endive is less expensive than that bag of pre-washed lettuce you just threw in your shopping cart.
Go to endive.com for serving tips…and just about everything else you could possibly want to know about endive.
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.