Both endive and chicory belong to a large group of plants of the genus Chicorium. There are two main branches to the genus—C. endivia and C. intybus. On the endivia side, the true endives are escarole, curly endive, and frisée. On the other side are Belgian endive and radicchio. However, in the marketplace, the term chicory gets applied to endives and vice versa. In spite of this confusion, these plants are all chicories.
Endive and chicory: nutrition
An abundance of vitamins and minerals are found in the green chicories and endive. Depending on the variety, they contain beta carotene, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and potassium. They also provide calcium, iron, and magnesium. In addition, chicory contains non-digestible complex carbohydrates called fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which may promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.
For a full listing of nutrients, check the National Nutrient Database:
Endive and Chicory Recipe Ideas
Endive and chicory greens are typically used in salads, but they’re also nutritious additions to soups, pasta, or served as a steamed side dish.
Types of endive and chicory
Belgian endive (witloof endive, French endive): Belgian endive are the shoots of the witloof chicory plant. There is a curious process involved in growing these pale, bittersweet vegetables. It begins in the field, where the seeds are sown and the plants are allowed to put down roots and actually grow a chicory plant. The tops of the plants are mowed off to a point that does not kill the plant but allows the roots to continue growing. The roots are then dug up and moved to cold frames where the plants are forced to grow tight, compact heads called chicons. When ready to harvest, the chicon, which is the Belgian endive that will arrive in the marketplace, is cut from the top of the chicory root by hand.
There are both white Belgian endive and red Belgian endive. Both are bullet-shaped, but the white has white flesh and very pale yellow tips while the red has the same white flesh with bright red-purple tips. Because the cultivation of Belgian endive is labor intensive, it is usually quite expensive.
Chicory: Though this is the overall name for the group of plants that includes endives, the green sold as chicory comes from the C. intybusside of the family. It comes in a loose head of curly-edged, bitter-tasting greens. It looks a lot like curly endive, but its leaves are more uniformly green and broader. It also tends to be bitterer.
Curly endive: Curly endive, a true endive, comes in a loose-headed bunch with ragged edges. The heart of the curly endive is yellow while the outer leaves are green. When added to a salad, its bitter flavor works well as a counterpoint to other, sweeter salad greens.
Escarole (Batavian endive): This member of the chicory family comes from the endive side. It grows in loose, elongated heads and has broad, wavy leaves with smooth edges. The flavor is slightly bitter, but milder than chicory—though the inner leaves, as with chicory, do not have as sharp a bite as the outer leaves. Escarole can be torn and added to a salad or cooked like a cooking green.
Frisée: This is another name for curly endive (the word frisée means curly in French), but by tradition it is usually sold in its young, tender form. The leaves are small, very delicately frilly, and light green to yellow-white.
Radicchio: A salad green with a slightly spicy undertone, radicchio is available in a range of colors from light green to deep purple-red.
Published February 26, 2016