BELGIAN ENDIVE 101: The White With the Benefits of Greens

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If you’ve included Belgian endive atop your salad or in your stew, that’s a sure sign you’re living right! This specialty ingredient spices up the most ordinary dish with its unique tangy flavor, and provides a much-needed pick-me-up during the cool fall and winter months. And though usually white in color, endive has many of the same benefits of leafy greens. Packed with vitamins and minerals, it is a great way to ensure you get ample amounts of the nutrients that keep you feeling your best.

Identification

Belgian endive are long oval heads about 6 inches long. The leaves are tightly compact and mostly white with either light yellow or red tips.

They are commonly found in the specialty lettuce section of the grocery store tucked in on a shelf to avoid bright light.

Taste

Raw Belgian endive has a crisp, fresh, slightly bitter taste. Their tanginess is a nice addition to a traditional mixed green salad.

When cooked, the flavor of Belgian endive mellows a bit. It is commonly braised in butter or grilled and mixed with grains or cheese.

Availability

Belgian endive is readily available in major supermarkets, specialty stores, and farmers’ markets during peak season.

Season

Belgian endive’s peak season in the US and Europe is between October and March.

Some California growers are able to harvest it year round.

Selection

In the supermarket, Belgian endive is often packaged with 3 to 5 heads wrapped in plastic. At a farmers’ market, vendors may have individual heads set out in rows.

Make sure each head’s leaves are tightly closed and the base is compact. Light yellow or red tips are best; green tips may indicate excessive bitterness.

Avoid endive heads with wilted leaf tips or a shrunken appearance, as these are signs of overripeness.

Organic Benefits

When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.

The The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 50 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen.” These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides.

Belgian endive is not highlighted on any list and may not be as affected by pesticides. However, leafy greens among the vegetables most affected by pesticides, so consider buying organic when possible.

However, the Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.

Storage

Cover loose endive heads in a damp paper towel, and store them in the refrigerator crisper for up to 10 days.

Preparation

Belgian endive is most commonly served raw, so little preparation is required. Rinse in cool, running water and pat dry. If using a whole head, chop off the root end. Optionally, next chop the head lengthwise or simply separate the leaves from one another.

Nutrition Summary

Vitamin K

Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bones. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.

Vitamin A

A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin A is involved in the development of rhodopsin, a molecule in the eye that promotes healthy vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for promoting the immune system, cell growth, skin health, and the formation of the heart and lungs as well as other bodily organs.

Manganese

The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.

B5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Helpful for metabolizing fatty acids and protein, two of the most satiating and long-lasting nutrients in the body. Vitamin B5 is also responsible for maintaining the proper functioning of insulin receptors and energy maintenance.

Potassium

Alongside sodium and chloride, potassium is an electrolyte essential for conducting electrical reactions in the body. Potassium aids proper muscle function, digestive health, and skeletal contractions.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

Like most greens, Belgian endive is low in calories (less than 100 calories for a single serving) but high in nutrition. While most well-known for its high amounts of vitamins K and A, endive is loaded with other important nutrients like vitamin C and folate. A single serving contains more than half the recommended daily needs for vitamin C, necessary for improving immune health. And a single serving contains almost twice your daily need of folate (also known as B9), which is essential for pregnancy, infant development, and maintenance of healthy metabolism in adults.

Little Known Facts
  1. Belgian endive is a member of the chicory family, and is also known as French endive, “white gold,” and witloof (“white leaf”).
  2. While the history of endive dates back to 16th century Egypt, discovery of what we enjoy today goes to a Belgian farmer, Jan Lammers, who noticed leaves sprouting from his stored chicory roots. He tried them and proclaimed the slightly tangy, slightly bitter flavor delicious.
  3. Americans usually refer to endive as “ehn-dive,” but interestingly, the proper pronunciation is more French: “on-deev.”
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.