Endive is closely related to and often confused with its cousin, chicory. There are three main varieties of endive: Belgian endive, curly endive and escarole. Belgian endive (also known as French endive or witloof) is a small (6 inch) cigar-shaped head of cream-colored, tightly packed slightly bitter leaves. Belgian endive is grown in complete darkness to prevent it from turning green. Curly endive, often mistakenly called chicory in the US, grows in loose heads of lacy, green-rimmed outer leaves that curl at the tips. The off-white center leaves form a compact heart. The leaves have a prickly texture and a slightly bitter taste. Escarole has broad, slightly curved, pale green leaves with a milder flavor than the other varieties.
Belgian endive is available from September to May. Buy crisp firmly packed heads with pale, yellow-green tips. Belgian endive becomes bitter when exposed to light. Curly endive and escarole are available year-round, with a peak season from June to October. Look for a fresh, crisp texture and avoid heads with discolorationn or insect damage.
Belgian endive becomes bitter when exposed to light. Store curly endive and escarole, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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