Ok, it’s true – it can be an acquired taste. But may we be so bold as to suggest that if you don’t like endive, you’re just not doing it right? Its bitter notes can be beautifully toned down with just a clever twist in the kitchen: try it charred in a pan and drizzled with black pepper, honey and olive oil, or mix it up in an interesting salad.
Also going by the name of chicory in northern France (and Belgium), endive is, perhaps surprisingly, the third most eaten vegetable in the Hexagon. And, of course, there’s more than one variety.
Also called chicory in our Belgian neighbors and in the North of France, endive is the third most consumed vegetable in France. There are several varieties of this autumn vegetable: Witloof, a white endive with yellow tips, is the most common variety; the wilder varieties of Verona and Chiogga, both Italian in origin, are white and red in colour; and Carmine is a natural cross between all three.
Peak season for this leafy veg is November and December, though it’s available from October through until May. In France, some 126,033 tonnes of chicory were harvested in 2022, mainly in the Hauts-de-France region. Legend has it that endive came about as part of ye olde tax dodge. A farmer called Bréziers, so the story goes, hid wild chicory plants in his cellar to avoid paying tax on them. When he went back a few weeks later, he found the roots had grown into a white, spindle-shaped plant… which tasted rather delicious. If you like endive, of course!
To remove the bitterness from endive, score the base with the tip of a knife and remove the small cone in the centre. And don’t let it soak in water as this increases the bitterness. To make it last longer, wrap it in newspaper.