Endive is often described as a green leafy green vegetable that comes in curly or flat-leaf varieties, but that’s not entirely true. To be precise, endive is the curly-leafed type, and escarole is the one with larger, flatter leaves. Endive, native to Asia Minor and a member of the Asteraceae (daisy) family of plants, is a close cousin to chicory, radicchio, and Belgian endive (witloof). Frisee is a smaller variety with fine, lacy leaves.
Endive is a cool weather crop like lettuce, with a crisp texture and robust flavor. The inner leaves are sweeter, but the more mature outer leaves deliver a bit of kick to the taste buds – in a good way. You’ll often find it in fancy mixes of lettuce greens because of its attractive, frilly leaves.
It turns out that endive is nutritious as well. In juicing, it’s best to blend endive with other veggies for a sweeter – or at least more neutral – taste. In salads, endive adds an interesting zest, and can be cooked tender-crisp like spinach, as a wrapping for meat or fish.
While most Americans pronounce the word as “ehn-dive,” the enlightened give it a French twist by (correctly) calling it “on-deev.” No matter. It’s the same tasty salad green – albeit rather pale and exotic-looking – that can add nutritious panache to nearly any meal.