Thursday, December 30, 2010

Les endives

Endives, what we Americans sometimes refer to as Belgian endive and the Belgians call chicon and witloof, is a type of chicory cultivated for its edible white leaf sprouts. We eat them all the time either raw as a salad or cooked, often wrapped in a slice of ham and gratinées in a béchamel sauce. They're always sold in the markets and supermarkets in France and they're pretty common, so not particularly expensive.

Endives and their roots at the market in Montrichard, 24 December 2010.

At the Montrichard Christmas eve market, I saw something I had never seen before. The vendors had many endives on display for sale to customers, all neatly trimmed and without roots attached. But off to the side, away from the beautiful displays, I saw this bin full of endives still attached to their roots. I suspect this is how they're transported to market to ensure that they stay fresh and don't wilt prior to sale.

These roots are planted in a rich soil mixture in a dark place. When the leaves begin to grow, they have no light to photosynthesize, so they stay white. The young buds are cut and sold before they get any bigger than five or six inches long.

What I don't know is if they re-plant those roots for another crop.


  1. By the time you see them like this, the roots have been used for the second year.

    In the first year they grow the roots and harvest them, they are kept in a cold place to stop the growth. The next year they plant the roots which are covered by sand or dark plastic so no light can harm the crop.

    Haven't found an English explanation on Wiki, but I think the French version says about the same as the Dutch.

  2. interesting....i had never seen endive growing i dont they use the roots forever or just a couple of yrs?

  3. I don't have any answers about reuse of the roots either. I just know that I really like this lettuce because it was plentiful and fairly cheap when I first lived in Germany in '73 and '74. But when we came back to the states it was quite expensive so I don't buy it that often. Alas!

    Wish I could shop at the markets you do.

  4. What an interesting photo. These
    are the chicory roots which were
    ground and then used as a
    substitute for coffee during hard
    times, perhaps? I did notice that
    huge mound of endive in the Xmas
    Eve photo you took. Very envious.

  5. Les endives sont plantées au printemps au jardin et vont développer leur premières feuilles et leur grosses racines pendant tout l'été et l'automne. Ensuite, on coupe les feuilles d'été qu'on peut donner au lapin et on met les racines en cave. Les feuilles d'hiver sont produites uniquement avec les réserves de nutriments accumulés dans les racines.

    Il y a une variété de chicorée qui se cultive de la même façon et est à mon avis encore meilleure que l'endive (mais plus chère et plus rare) : la barbe de capucin.

  6. Very interesting!


  7. Thanks for the photo. I've never seen endive with roots.

  8. I learned something today; I have never seen these plants with their roots until now.

  9. peter, thanks. Very informative.

    melinda, apparently they grow one crop in their second year and then they're done.

    kristi, I think it's expensive in the US because there's not a big demand for it.

    sheila, I'm not sure, but I think that may be a different variety.

    judy, me neither!

    olivier, bienvenu! Et merci pour toutes vos précisions !

    bettyann, life is very interesting!

    starman & michael, I hadn't, either.

  10. Happy New Years everyone! I so enjoy reading your text and seeing your pictures, Walt. Merci beaucoup.


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