Enjoying Curly Endive and Escarole

Endive (Cichorium endivia) belongs to the chicory genus, which includes several similar bitter-leafed vegetables. Species include wild chicory (Cichorium pumilum), and common chicory (Cichorium intybus), which includes radicchio, puntarelle, and Belgian endive. Endive belongs to the Asteraceae family, along with the herbs arnica, burdock, boneset, calendula, chamomile, cronewort (mugwort), coltsfoot, dandelion, echinacea, elecampane, feverfew, gravel root, grindelia, liferoot, milk thistle, tansy, yarrow, valerian, wormwood, and wild lettuce. The family also contains the foods sunflower seedslettuce, true artichokes, and sun chokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes). And it contains the decorative flowers asters, chrysanthemums, dahlias, bachelor’s buttons, daisies, cosmos, coneflowers, goldenrods, sunflowers, and zinnias.

There are two main varieties of cultivated endive:

  • Curly endive (Cichorium endivia crispum). This type has narrow, green, curly outer leaves. It is called chicorée frisée in French. Curly endive forms a low-growing head of curly leaves which range from yellow at its heart to dark green at the leaves tips. It is usually added to mixed greens to give a bitter flavor, or can be used with other bitter greens to create a bitter green salad which is classically served with a nutty vinaigrette. There are dozens of curly endives all with long histories of use in everything from salads to coffees. Baby Frisee is a young curly endive. It is yellow at its base, with touches of pale green at its tips. Baby Frisee has frilly leaves and sturdy crisp ribs that add lift and texture to baby green salads.
  • Escarole (Cichorium endivia latifolia), also known as broad-leaved endive, has broad, pale green leaves and is less bitter than the other varieties. Varieties or names include Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, grumolo, scarola, and scarole. It is eaten like other greens, sauteed, chopped into soups and stews, or as part of a green salad. Escarole is similar in flavor to chicory or curly endive. It has broad flat leaves rather than the curly ones. Escarole leaves have spine like-dentate margins (dandelion or lettuce like) with thick stalks. Its leaves are less bitter than narrow, intensely bitter-taste of curly endive. The outer layers of the escarole plant are dark green but after peeling back a layer, it will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green. Each layer will reveal a slightly lighter shade of green, and as the leaves lighten in color, the bitterness will also significantly lessen. What this means is that in preparing a dish, you can use different layers of escarole in order to achieve a particular taste that one wants.

Curly endive originated in Asia Minor. Both the wild and cultivated forms been used for centuries as food for humans and animals. It was described as a salad green and a pot-herb in early Roman writings. Popular in the 16th century in England, curly endive was grown on board Navy ships to use in salads and help prevent scurvy.

Escarole was cultivated in Britain and France since the late 1400s and has continued to be popular in those cuisines.  Within the past 25 years or so, escarole has made its way to acceptance by the American palate.

Endive is very low in calories: 100 grams provides just 17 calories and 8% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber. The high inulin and fiber content in endive helps reduce glucose and LDL cholesterol levels in people who have diabetes or obesity.

Endive is an excellent source of bone-building vitamin K and antioxidant vitamin A (most of it in the form of ß-carotene), and vitamin C. Further, it contains good amounts of many essential B-complex vitamins such as folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, all of which are essential for fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. Additionally, endive is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, potassium, and zinc.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh, Raw Endive

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

vitamin K 231 µg 192%
vitamin A 2167 IU 72%
folate 142 µg 36%
pantothenic acid 0.900 mg 18%
manganese 0.420 mg 18%
vitamin C 6.5 mg 11%
copper 0.099 mg 11%
iron 0.83 mg 10%
fiber 3.10 g 8%
thiamine 0.080 mg 7%
potassium 314 mg 7%
zinc 0.79 mg 7%
riboflavin 0.075 mg 6%
calcium 52 mg 5%
magnesium 15 mg 4%
phosphorus 28 mg 4%
vitamin E 0.44 mg 3%
carbohydrates 3.35 g 2.5%
niacin 0.400 mg 2.5%
protein 1.25 g 2%
vitamin B6 0.020 mg 1.5%
sodium 22 mg 1.5%
fat 0.20 g 1%
Calories 17 Kcal 0.85%
selenium 0.2 mcg 0.3%
cholesterol 0 mg 0%
carotene-ß 1300 µg

Fresh endive is available year-round. Choose crispy, tender leafy tops. Avoid tough, discolored leaves. Curly endive is generally available in the stores as blanched “frisee.” Blanching removes bitterness from the leaves and enhances their flavor. Blanching is generally done by covering the plants for 2-4 weeks with inverted baskets or buckets to avoid sunlight.

Store greens in container inside refrigerator. They will stay fresh for 3-4 days.

Wash fresh endive in cool running water. Discard yellow or any discolored leaves. Remove tough lower ends. Chop the leaves using paring knife.

Curly endive is used in salads. Escarole is used in salads, soups (especially escarole-bean soup) and in sautéed recipes.

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