What is Endive?

Endive (pronounced “on-deev”) is a member of the chicory family, which includes radicchio, escarole, frisee and curly endive. It has a crisp texture and a sweet, nutty flavor with a pleasantly mild bitterness – great served raw or cooked.

So Special…It’s Grown Twice

Endive is one of the most difficult vegetables in the world to grow, requiring a two-step growing process before it is ready to be enjoyed. 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. 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.

Keep reading for photos and more details about the fascinating growing process!

A Humble Beginning – The life of an endive begins as a seed of specially selected chicory varieties. Blue flowers of chicory are a familiar sight in pastures and along roadsides throughout much of the US.

Phase I: In the Field – In the late spring/early summer those chicory seeds are sown. The chicory plant produces a dense, leafy, knee-high foliage over a 5-month period.

Time to Dig – In the fall that foliage is mowed close to the ground and discarded in preparation for digging the roots.

Out of the Field – The foundation of endive production is the chicory root harvested from the field and crowned by its intact growing bud.

Phase II: In the Dark – In a dark, moist, cellar-like environment that bud on the chicory root grow again, rendering a single mature endive in about 4 weeks.

Roots Ready for Harvest – Mature ready to harvest red and white endive.

A Delicious Result – The objective of the farmers is this unique, versatile, healthy vegetable that is available year-round.