Chicory has been around as long as civilization itself. The University of California documents archaeological evidence of chicory dating back to the Bronze Age. It is also apparently one of the “bitter herbs” cited in the Bible to be eaten for Passover, and the ancient Greeks and Romans consumed it copiously. Native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, the aggressive flavor and versatility of these bitter lettuces certainly made an impression wherever they spread, whether the hardy magenta leaves of radicchio, the crisp stems of
Belgian Endive. Cichorium endivia. This white, oblong-shaped leaf curves into light yellow tips at the end. Also called French endive or witloof chicory, Belgian endive has a waxy texture on the surface and
Escarole. Cichorium endivia. Dark green, leafy, and assertively bitter, escarole is an Italian favorite, appearing often in soups, as a companion to beans, or as a side dish. Also called Batavian endive,
Frisee. Cichorium endivia.
Pan di Zucchero. Cichorium intybus. Literally “sugar loaf,” pan di
Pan di Zucchero. Cichorium intybus. A fleeting winter favorite, this chicory is marked by thin, light green stems. Sharp, bitter, and crispy, it is a favorite in Rome when prepared with anchovy and lemon. The dark green leaves, which stand out in contrast to the light stems, have a softer texture but an equally powerful flavor.
Radicchio. Cichorium intybus. Its red color makes it the flamboyant, nonconformist member of the chicory clan, while its bittersweet flavor, wide availability, and versatility—it can be served raw, grilled, sautéed, or roasted—make it one of the more common types to find on the plate. It also goes by Chioggia, red chicory, and red Italian chicory. See: Radicchio Salad With Green Olive Dressing.
Reprinted from The Book of Greens: A Cook’s Compendium by Jenn Louis with Kathleen Squires, with permission by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, © 2017.