February 2nd, 2012 Belgian endive is also known as French endive, witloof, white leaf, and white gold. Composed of tightly packed cream-coloured leaves and shaped like a cigar, this slightly bitter vegetable is one of three varieties of endive (others are the curly endive and escarole). Belgian endive is an excellent winter vegetable, requiring absolutely no light to grow! The production of this vegetable is involved: first, chicory seeds are sown and allowed to take root; then, once the roots are well established, the chicory leaves are harvested and the roots are pulled from the ground – very carefully. Next, the roots are grown in darkness, blanching the plant of any colour. The emerging endive is kept beneath the soil, covered by straw, preserving its whiteness. Only the tips of the leaves are exposed, producing a pale green at the top. The genesis of the Belgian endive is varied: some say they were discovered quite by accident in 1830 when a farmer’s chicory roots sprouted in his cellar over the winter; others credit a Belgian botanist with its development in 1846. Either way, the endive is deeply rooted in Belgian history. Today, the endive’s fame and versatility has spread worldwide. Red endive is similarly popular. A hybrid of the Belgian endive and Treviso, it produces an identically shaped vegetable, only red-tipped instead. Belgian endive may be eaten baked, steamed, boiled, grilled, or raw. Use Belgian endive in the recipe provided or try these ideas: add to fresh salads; serve cold with salmon, caviar, cheeses, and dips; pair it with blue cheese and pears; enjoy with apples, beets, and pine nuts in a vinaigrette dressing; fill leaves with tuna, crab, shrimp, or chicken salad. An easy way to enjoy Belgian endive is to grill it. For two servings, simply halve one endive the long way, brush all over with olive oil, season with freshly ground black pepper and coarse salt to taste, and grill over medium heat for about twenty to thirty minutes, turning once halfway through. The endive is done when fork-tender. Drizzle with additional olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if desired; garnish with snipped fresh parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature. Visit www.endive.ca – a whole website dedicated to this unique vegetable – it includes recipes for Baked Endive with Ham and Cheese, Cream of Endive Soup, Egg Salad Stuffed Endive, Endive Salad with Apple, and many more! Before cooking the endive, the bottom core will need to be removed to prevent a bitter flavor from spoiling the finished dish. Belgian endive should be rinsed in cold water and dried well to remove any surface debris prior to preparation. Remove any wilted outer leaves. Store Belgian endive wrapped in paper towel, in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to two days. Minimize its light exposure: light causes endive to become bitter. With only twenty calories, no fat, sodium, or cholesterol, Belgian endive is a good source of folate, Vitamins A and K, and fiber.