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Scientific NameCichorium Endivia: the "real" chicory (Asteraceae family) and Cichorium Intybus (Witloof chicory)
Common nameChicory, witloof chicory
Varieties and seasons
There are two interesting chicory species, remarkable for their agronomic and alimentary qualities:
-Cichorium Endivia, the "real" chicory, available in varieties such as curled-leaf chicory, broad-leafed endives, etc.
-Cichorium Intybus or bitter chicory, available in varieties such as Witloof chicory, characterised by the ability of its root to produce a bud or cos in artificial growing conditions (forcing).
It is also important to distinguish these two varieties of chicory from two other types of chicory.
-Industrial chicory, which is turned into “roasting chicory”. This is grown for the aroma of its roasted root, which provides a tasty substitute to coffee. Recently, the polyfructoses (inuline) in chicory have been extracted as a source of edible fibre, along with fructose, with its sweetening properties.
-Lastly, witloof chicory offers red and variegated chicory.
Vegetable garden: growing chicory
Chicory is grown in fields from May to November and consists of producing regular roots with a diameter of 4 cm from which chicory is produced. The first roots, grown at the end of April, can be put under sheeting to protect them from frost. Once the root has reached 4 cm, it can be harvested. The roots are then store in a cold room to extend the production period throughout the year.
Second stage: Forcing. This is the period necessary to mature the chicory: it’s a vital stage during which the root produces the chicory. Chicory forms in 3 to 4 weeks under specific conditions: it requires heat, darkness, and a regular supply of water, generally enriched with a nutritious solution. Once the chicory has arrived at maturity, it is ready to be harvested and broken from its root.
The biggest producers of chicory are France, Belgium and the Netherlands. France is now the world’s leading producer with 220,000 tonnes per year, well ahead of Belgium with 100,000 tonnes.
In France, people eat almost 3.6kg of chicory (the third most consumed vegetable) per year, just behind the Belgians with 6.3kg. It is, after all, its country of origin!
Chicory is essentially consumed between November and March (85% of sales). There is a growing trend towards non-seasonal consumption in Spring and Summer.
Nutritional values (per 100 g)
* Ciqual 1995 ** Recommended Daily Intake
A light and refreshing vegetable (almost 95% water), chicory contains few calories.
It contains an average of 2.7% fibre, composed mostly of soft cellulose and hemicellulose, which give the chicory its firm and crunchy texture.
It has an extremely high vitamin C and vitamin B9 density: if you consume 100 kcalories of chicory out of the 2,300 (the daily recommended amount), you will have covered almost 100% of your requirement in vitamin C and fibres, and almost 3 times your recommended vitamin B9 intake!
When it comes to portions...?
- a child portion : one chicory
- an adult portion : two chicory
Cooking and nutrition: tasty combinations
-Braised chicory with ham: a highly popular recipe that’s tasty and offers a good nutritional balance. The thin slices of ham rolled around the chicory, which is very low in calories, complemented by grated cheese, gives the dish a rounded flavour that everyone loves. In terms of nutrition, it offers a very balanced meal.
-Another great classic, Chicory Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts, combines four subtle flavours: the mildness and tangy quality of the chicory leaves, the salty, bitter taste of Roquefort, the acidity of the cheese and the vinaigrette, and the rounded flavour of walnuts. From a nutritional point of view, it’s a veritable cocktail of vitamins, including A, E, C, B9, B12, fibre, calcium and phosphorus, and essential fatty acids!
To reduce the slight bitterness that comes out in cooking when the chicory is a bit older, add a lump of sugar to the cooking liquid or a tiny amount of brown sugar to the pan. You don’t need to do anything with frozen chicory: because it is prepared and frozen right after harvesting it is never bitter.
Chicory has a high water content, very few calories and very high nutritional density. Chicory contains 205 mg of potassium per 100 g. Alongside its low salt content (4 mg/100 g), this makes chicory a good diuretic.