They are about the only fresh veg you can find in early spring and my neighbour seems to be on a single handed mission to convert me to the eating of these things, and to that end bought round another crop yesterday in return for some eggs.
So I thought I would educate us all with a bit of info:
The endive I am talking about is generally known as a Belgian endive or Witloof in the US, and is grown from chicory seeds.
Cultivation is pretty labour intensive and that is why I am happy to leave my neighbour to do all the hard work while I just get on with looking for recipes afterwards.
To Grow Endives:
- First plant your chicory seeds in May or June, they need loose soil and lots of water. Harvest the leaves and eat as salad throughout the summer months.
- In late Autumn, early Winter once the roots have had a couple of freezes under their belts, dig up the roots, keep any that have a diameter of over an inch for cultivating, the rest can be transplanted in the garden under cover for spring salad leaves.
- Trim any remaining sprouting leaves to within an inch of the top of the roots, and remove any side sprouting little roots and tendrils.
- Plant your roots in a box of rich composted soil, and place in the dark preferably in a shed or barn, they will need about 10 inches of soil, and pack them in tightly making sure none of the root is exposed.
- Cover the crowns with sand, straw or sawdust, it needs to be about 6 inches high.
- Temperatures now play a part, between 0°C and 4°C, they won't do anything, but at 10°C to 16°C they will begin to sprout.
- Once you have reached growing temperature start to water weekly.
- After 3 weeks the first green tips of leaves should start showing through your blackout layer, harvest the endive, leaving a little crown again, recover and let the next endive grow through.
The whiter the leaves are the less bitter the taste.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Remove the bitter tasting base of the leaves and slice the endives length wise, 2 spears per person for vegetable accompaniment to a cutlet or escalope, 1 spear per person for a starter.
- Place in the bottom of a shallow dish, pour over some olive oil.
- Add a finely chopped onion
- A couple of crushed garlic cloves
- Some freshly ground black pepper
- A couple of slices of pancetta or other salty cured meat cut into small pieces
- Finish with a quick squirt of lemon juice
- Bake for 45 minutes
- Take out of the oven, and pour over a small 150 ml carton of full fat cream, less if you are only cooking a couple of spears.
- Sprinkle on a bit of paprika
- Bake for a further 15 minutes
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- 4 endives
- 4 slices ham
- grated cheese
- fresh chopped parsley
- 30 g plain flour
- 30 g butter or margarine
- ½ litre milk
- salt, nutmeg & pepper
Trim the base of the endives then boil in salted water for 15 minutes.
In the meantime make up the sauce by melting the butter over a gentle heat, whisk in the flour until there are no lumps and you have a thick paste. Gradually stir in the milk, whisking out any lumps that form until you get a thick creamy sauce, season (the nutmeg is optional - I never add any as a) I don't like it so b) there is never any in the house) and simmer for a few minutes.
When the endives are cooked, wrap each one in a slice of ham and place in a shallow oven proof dish, pour over the sauce and the cheese then garnish with the parsley leaves.
Bake for 15 minutes then finish under the grill for 5 minutes to brown the cheese.
Endive Salad Starter:
Trim the base of the endives and remove the core to about an inch depth, these inner greener leaves are the bitterest.
Chop down the length, add a couple of sliced tomatoes, season with ground sea salt and some ground black peppercorns, then garnish with a couple of soft boiled quail eggs and a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley.