927 Cichorium endiviaCommon Names: endive, escarole, batavia Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)
Endive (Cichorium endivia var. crispa) and escarole (Cichorum endivia var. latifolium) are, respectively, the curly leaved and flat leaved varieties of a leafy annual (sometimes biennial) in the sunflower family that is closely related to the perennial Cichorium intybus, which includes chicory, radicchio and Belgian endive, also known as witloof. Endive leaves are dissected and curly, and escarole leaves are flat and broad, but both are rather bitter tasting salad greens popular in Europe and in trendy American restaurants. Endive is a low growing, ruffled little plant, most cultivars just 6-10 in (15-25.4 cm) tall, whereas escarole has a central "head" of smooth fleshy leaves and is larger and more upright, some cultivars to 2 ft (0.6 m) in height. The leaves of both endive and escarole are a little more thick and chewy than those of lettuce, which is also closely related. Endives and escaroles produce attractive pale blue flowers on stems that stand way above the leafy foliage. Most endives and escaroles are bright green, but there are some cultivars that are bronzy brown, and some with red midribs. Cornucopia II lists 18 cultivars of endive and 8 of escarole and another 4 that are intermediate in leaf shape and habit.
Cichorum endivia is probably native to India, although there are other opinions, including that it hails from Egypt or China, or that it is a hybrid between C. intybus and C. pumilum, a wild species from Turkey and Syria.
CultureEndive and escarole are grown like lettuce, in rows, wide rows or patches. Like other greens, endive and escarole taste best when grown quickly. Be sure to add nitrogen fertilizer to the soil. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Endive and escarole should be grown quickly and they need regular watering for that. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Spring planted endive and escarole do well only where summers are cool. Hot weather makes them too tough and too bitter. Endive is a little better suited to warmer weather, and is more likely to rot in cold, damp weather. Escarole is more cold hardy and better suited for the winter garden, where it can be overwintered for an early spring crop. Both tend to bolt and go to flower under a combination of short days and cool weather. Propagation: Endive and escarole are grown from seed. In the north, plant in early spring, 2-4 weeks before the last expected frost, or in late summer, 12-15 weeks before the first expected frost for a fall crop. In the south, plant in autumn or even in winter. Endive and escarole should be ready for blanching 2-3 months after sowing the seed.
Escarole, and to a lesser extent, endive, should be blanched to reduce their bitterness. Cover the plants with inverted bushel baskets, boxes, clay pots or a temporary plywood A-frame, and leave them covered for 2-4 weeks. The leaves will turn creamy white and will lose their bitterness. You also can blanch endive and escarole by tying up the outer leaves so that the inner leaves and hearts are protected from the light. Be sure the plants are dry before covering them or they will likely rot. In fact, they should be uncovered (or untied) for a while to dry out after rain.
Endive is used almost exclusively raw in salads. Restaurants often use endive as a garnish around salad bowls. Escarole is also a fine salad green, but it also can be braised in olive oil and garlic, or steamed or boiled like spinach. The slightly bitter flavor of endive and escarole are much appreciated by European salad lovers; Americans are just beginning to appreciate bitter tastes in salads. Adding something sweet or oily to a salad balances the bitterness of endive and escarole; sweet peppers, chopped hard boiled egg, and olive oil fulfill this function nicely.
In France, endive is called chicoree frisee and escarole is called chicoree scarole. In the U.K., endive is called curly endive and escarole is called endive or batavia chicory. The ancient Greeks, and probably the Egyptians as well, cultivated escarole for salads. The curly leaved endives weren't developed until after the 16th century.
Steve Christman 5/13/01; updated 9/21/03, 11/6/09