Endives are extremely popular winter salads with a slightly bitter, savory aroma. In self-bleaching varieties, the leaves turn yellow in the center. These salad hearts are less bitter and more tender than the green ones. Endives are descended from Cichorium endivia, a plant native to the Mediterranean, and are closely related to chicory, radicchio and sugarloaf chicory, all of which are members of the Asteraceae family. As a salad, they stimulate the appetite and are therefore ideal as a starter.
Two types of endive are distinguished. The curly type (also known as the frisée type) has curly, pinnate leaves and is best eaten fresh. The other type has broad, thick leaves and is best suited for storing. Some varieties are self-bleaching, meaning that the leaves are so dense that the outer ones bleach the inner ones. Alternatively, endive leaves can also be bleached manually. To do this, the leaf rosettes are carefully tied together in dry weather, about two weeks before the desired harvest date.
Don’t sow too early or the plants will bolt. Water sufficiently during dry weather. If they are to be bleached, they can be covered with an opaque fleece or foil a week before harvest. Watch out for snails and mildew.
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