Produce Superstars: Does Belgian Endive Really Come From Belgium?

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For a long time I’ve wondered why in the world Belgian endive is called that. Did it originate in Belgium and does it still come from there? It turns out that the process for growing the blanched, mild endive we’ve come to know as Belgian endive did originate in Belgium in the 19th century. Part of the large chicory family which includes radicchio, frisée (curly endive) and escarole, Belgian endive is high in folate, Vitamins A and K and fiber. All members of the chicory family can be eaten raw in salads, and can be braised. The roots are dried, roasted, ground and added to coffee in New Orleans and elsewhere, and sometimes used as a coffee substitute. I love the bitterness of the endives, but I do like to contrast that bitterness with sweet and salty flavors. As you might guess, most of the Belgian endive available in the U.S. is grown on an industrial scale in California, much of it by California Vegetable Specialities in the Sacramento River Delta area. The glorious endive in the planter box below was grown by Henri de Fontanges in his cave in the Loire Valley, France. Henri is a former administrator of the National Institute for Agricultural Research in France who now grows endive as a hobby. After the jump, he explains how it’s grown, and I give you my recipe for endive salad with apples, glazed walnuts and a creamy apple vinaigrette.

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