Ancient people were familiar with endives, a leafy vegetables belonging to the chicory family. The Romans, Greeks and ancient Romans cultivated this plant, which produces thick edible leaves. Apart from being edible, endives also possess a number of therapeutic attributes.
Endive (botanical name Cichorium endivia) is loaded with various nutrients, including essential amino acids, starch, fats, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and a number of vitamins - vitamin C, K, B1, B2 and P. Endives belong to the chicory family and can be consumed raw or after cooking. While this plant is indigenous to India, currently people in the United States and Europe cultivate it more extensively. In Europe and the United States, people use this leafy vegetable in the form of a green salad, which is extremely popular. These days, even several grocers sell endive and it is usually available throughout the year. Growing endives is quite easy and it can also be grown as a home plant, provided the gardener resides in any place having temperate climatic conditions and can provide partial sunlight and a well-drained, loose soil to the plants.
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Endives are categorized under three different groups - Belgian endive, escarole and curly endive. Each of these types has a different appearance and flavour. In addition, they are also used in dissimilar ways. Similar to all other plants belonging to the chicory family, the flavour of green endive is somewhat bitter. However, the degree of bitterness of the plant depends on the Cichorium endivia cultivar grown by the gardener and the manner in which the plants are being handled.
Belgian endive, which is also known as the white leaf endive, bears extremely compacted furled heads which appear to be somewhat similar to cigars. This endive is prepared by harvesting the entire plant, including the roots. The roots are cut to prevent growth of the plant and stored in a cool place away from all sources of light. When kept in such conditions, the roots give rise to buds, which results in secondary growth comprising compactly packed leaves having an extremely delicate flavour and fragile texture. There are a number of exotic Belgian cultivars the color of whose leaves varies from red to pink.
The second variety is curly endive, which is also called frisee. This endive variety is said to be the archnemesis of several salad connoisseurs. Similar to cilantro, curly endive is a food that some love, but others loathe. People who love frisee or curly endive value the sharp flavour and the lacy texture of this lettuce. On the other hand, people who hate this food deplore that eating curly endive is like consuming bitter feathers and, if added to salads or other dishes, they will remove it meticulously.
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The third type, escarole bears wide green leaves, which are somewhat curly. The leaves of escarole are very soft having a comparatively subtle flavour and fragile texture.
Similar to several leafy green vegetables, endives may also become somewhat woody and bitter when the plant is left in the field for a prolonged period.
However, when young, the leaves are tender and very tasty and their flavour is further delicate. On the other hand, the texture of the mature leaves of endive is somewhat akin to cardboard, while the bitterness overpowers the other flavours of this green vegetable. Provided you allow the plants to develop to such a mature stage, its flavour can be somewhat salvaged by cooking. When you salt the leaves properly and wash the leaves meticulously soaking them several times in cold water prior to cooking, it sometimes helps to remove some of the bitterness of this leafy vegetable.
Cultivation of endives involves four distinct phases. The endive is planted in May and, subsequently, the plants are taken out of the soil along with their roots in October. The leaves of the plant are trimmed down to about 2 cm above the crown. At the same time, the rootlets are removed.
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In the next stage, the roots are pressured for about 21 days to produce an extremely white as well as small endive. The pressure part is undertaken in a cellar or possibly in straw that is earth engrossed. In the last stage, the endive is separated or broken off from its root, while the external leaves are removed to make the head compact and firm.
It is said that an infusion prepared with endive facilitates in sustaining the metabolic equilibrium of the digestive system, promote intestinal frequency, and detoxify the entire body, in addition to augmenting the body's defence systems. Moreover, endive is believed to be a very effective diuretic and an excellent laxative. This herb also possesses the aptitude to disintegrate kidney stones, helping their elimination from the body.
The taste of endive juice is so bitter that it is almost impossible to drink it without blending it with other items. Ideally, endive juice should be blended with juices extracted from other pleasantly flavoured vegetables. In addition to reducing the bitterness of endive juice, this also helps to augment the nourishment value of the drink and support the health of the muscular system as well as the optic nerves.
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Endive can be used in several different ways. For instance, it is often used to prepare endive juice, which has proved to be effective in healing skin complaints. In fact, blending endive juice with the juices of other natural vegetables and fruits helps the skin to get rid of acne. Moreover, consumption of endive juice is also effective in protecting the skin from further pimples.
Consumption of endive juice blended with juice extracted from celery and carrot is excellent for lessening the occurrence of bouts of asthma. Moreover, endive juice blended with parsley and celery juices is extremely beneficial for anemic people, because this blended juice works as a potent tonic for our blood.
Endive is also known to be a very good resource of vitamin A, which makes this green leafy vegetable an excellent preventive remedy for various cancer forms, including cancers of the bladder, rectum and melanoma. In addition, vitamin A is also known to be effective in preventing cancers of the oral cavity and lungs. Similarly, it also contains vitamin E, which is said to prevent prostate cancer. Endive is also loaded with dietary fiber, which is beneficial for cleansing the colon as well as preventing colon cancer. Endive is also known to be beneficial for women, as calcium in this green vegetable plays a vital role in avoiding the development of ovarian and breast cancers. This salad vegetable contains various nutrients and dietary fiber, which makes it an excellent food for alleviating constipation. People who loathe this green vegetable may drink its juice blended with carrot and apple juices, as this mixture makes its flavour somewhat delightful.
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Endive juice blended with celery, carrot, and spinach as well as parsley juices is extremely beneficial for people suffering from degenerating eye disorders, such as glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration and others. For best results, it is advisable that such people should drink this blended juice in measures of approximately 180 ml (6 ounces) regularly. When they do this, they will notice remarkable improvement in the condition within some months and will possibly not require undergoing surgeries to correct their problems.
Furthermore, you may blend endive juice with any preferred juice for additional cleansing of your system, for endive juice is effective in promoting bile secretion.
Endive is very low on calories and this makes this salad vegetable a wonderful food for those trying to lose some extra body weight. You may consume endive in salads, as a vegetable or its juice often to facilitate weight loss.
Similar to most other vegetables, endive also encloses several vitamins and essential minerals, necessary to maintain the optimum functioning of our body. This green leafy vegetable is effective in augmenting the functioning of our body's defence mechanisms as well as in protecting us from various health problems, including heart diseases, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, colon cancer and even depression. The primary vitamins contained by endive include vitamin C, vitamin K and B vitamins like vitamin B1 and vitamin B2.
As endives have a horribly bitter taste, consuming the juice of this vegetable just prior to having a meal aids in promoting appetite. Moreover, endives may also be used in the form of a mild laxative. Practitioners of herbal medicine usually recommend endives to people suffering from digestive and gastric problems. Apart from drinking endive juice, this green vegetable may also be eaten in salads to enhance your appetite.
Various scientific studies have shown that consuming natural vitamin E, as present in endives, may possibly aid in preventing the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Endives enclose elevated amounts of calcium, which is essential for the development as well as the health of our bones and teeth. In addition, consumption of endives also helps to prevent osteoporosis.
This green leafy vegetable is also loaded with dietary fiber. In fact, only one endive contains as much as 16 grams of dietary fiber. The fiber contained by endive is special as it not only promotes digestion, but may also be useful in alleviating bowel disorder, in addition to splitting up kidney stones.
The cholesterol levels in endive is very low. In addition, it also contains very little saturated fat. These two attributes make endive an excellent food for the health of the cardiovascular system, thereby helping to prevent heart diseases. The inulin (natural carbohydrate) stored in endives may possibly facilitate in controlling the levels of LDL or so-called "bad" cholesterol in the bloodstream. It also contains a healthy level of potassium, which helps to neutralize high blood pressure (hypertension).
Endives also contain folate, which is vital for ensuring that babies are not born with birth defects.
Endive preparation involves a somewhat cumbersome process. Get fresh endives and cleanse them in cold running water. Subsequently, remove all yellowish and stained leaves. You also need to get rid of the firm lower ends of this vegetable and then use a paring knife to cut the leaves.
Various shops sell curly endive in the form of washed-out pale "frisee". When endive is blanched it removes the bitterness from the vegetable and also helps to augment its flavour. Generally, blanching is done by keeping the leaves clear of sunlight. For this, you need to use plastic plates or upturned bushel baskets to envelop the plants for a period of about two to four weeks.
Clean these blanched curly endives using cold water immediately before using them. Subsequently, use a sharp knife to slice the stem ends.
There are various ways of serving endive; here are a few guidelines. Frisee is especially used in the popular French salad called Lyonnaise. On the other hand, escarole is used in various foods, including soups (particularly, escarole-bean soup), salads and also sautéed preparations. Another endive variety called witloof is used uncooked in salads. This variety is also braised and even served in the form of a vegetable.
When you are purchasing a Belgian endive head, make certain that its foliage is even and soft. In addition, the lower end of this lettuce ought to be white, while the upper part should be preferably yellow or reddish. Also ensure that all the leaves of the Belgian endive head are green and none of them are stained or browning.
Endive should always be stored in a cool place and away from light. These plants will turn bitter when you expose them to excessive or bright light. In case you plan to store the endives in a refrigerator, you should ensure that you put them in a plastic bag or, even better, in a sealed jar. In case there is any type of condensation, use a dry paper towel to soak up the moisture. You may place a dry paper towel along with the endives in the plastic bag or air-tight jar. This lettuce is so sensitive that it will remain in good shape only for three to five days even when stored in a refrigerator.