Food From chicore to "witloof": how was endive discovered?

12:40  31 october  2020
12:40  31 october  2020 Source:   europe1.fr

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Production de la chicorée Witloof ou endive (1928).

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Tous les jours dans © PATRICK PLEUL / DPA / AFP Every day in "Historically yours", Olivier Poels goes back to the origin of a dish and gives us his recipe to make it again at home. On Friday, he returned to the discovery of endive, a vegetable that was created by chance, and which can be cooked as a gratin, with ham.

Whether called "chicory" in Belgium or "endive" in France, this vegetable is not really natural. Indeed, chicory did not exist before 1830 and was invented by chance. During the Belgian revolution, a resident of the municipality of Schaerbeek, in Brussels, hid chicory plants in his cellar because he was afraid that someone would come and steal them. He even put soil on top of it, so that his plants would really go unnoticed. Returning a few days later, he then noticed that leaves had grown at the end of his chicory plants.

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"Witloof", the first name of endive

A little later, in 1850, a certain Franz Brazier, head gardener of the Company of Belgian horticulture, will develop the technique to grow endives on a regular basis. This vegetable will arrive in Paris 30 years later, around 1880, under the name of "endives de Bruxelles". The first name for endive was actually "witloof", a Flemish word meaning "white leaf". It then became "chicory" because of chicory, then "endive" in French.

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A vegetable grown in the dark

The leaves are white because they grow in the shelter of the light, therefore without photosynthesis and without chlorophyll. The leaves are good, as long as you like the bitterness a little.

Eaten in a salad, endives can also be cooked as a gratin and this dish is a great classic of northern cuisine, thanks to a stranger who had the good idea to combine endives and béchamel. To make endives with ham successful, it is imperative to cook the endives carefully and especially not to cook them in a large volume of water.

The recipe for endives with Olivier Poels ham

The ingredients


Slices of ham

20 grams of butter

20 grams of flour


Summary of steps

1. Cook the endives in a little 'water and a little fat, and keep the cooking water for the béchamel

2. Mix the butter, flour, milk and the cooking water to obtain a béchamel

3. Wring the endives and roll them in slices of ham

4. Cover everything with bechamel cheese, then grated cheese, salt, pepper and a little nutmeg

5. Put in the oven

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This is interesting!