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chicory

 

Synonyms: endive, Belgian endive, witloof

botanical name: Cichorium intybus


Chicorée

 

Chicory stems from wild chicory and originated in Europe, North Africa, and the Orient as far as Siberia. Today it is cultivated almost worldwide.

Europe's largest producers are Belgium, France and the Netherlands. While Belgium and the Netherlands export most of the chicory they grow, the French harvest is almost exclusively for domestic consumption. Chicory sold in Germany comes mainly from the Benelux countries, but meanwhile it is also being cultivated more here.


Availability


Although chicory could be sold throughout the year, the main season is limited to the winter, from October to April, when it is more generally available. It can be found out of season as well, but at higher prices. The season is purposely kept short because numerous other vegetables are available in the summer and it doesn't pay to grow chicory then.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


The biennial plant is closely related to endive and radicchio, as suggested by its similarly bitter taste. Unlike other salads, chicory cannot be harvested in the field and then marketed directly afterwards; its production requires somewhat more effort.

From the end of September until November, the roots of the plants are dug up before the first frost and stored in cellars and hotbeds. At the point when the chicory is ready to sprout, these roots are handled in several different ways in order to help them form shoots. The following procedures are used:

1. The roots are set into moist sand or peat and covered with soil.

2. The roots are set into moist sand or peat and covered not with soil, but with a black sheet that does not allow any light to pass through. This treatment is less time consuming, as the chicory needn't be cleaned subsequently.

3. The roots are stored in trays with water and a nutritive culture broth. In this case the subsequent work is also less time consuming.

During the sprouting period, about 3–4 weeks, shoots form on the roots, and these are the chicory as we know it. The shoots are separated from the roots and delivered to the market. The roots are used as animal fodder.

Chicory grows up to 20 cm long and 4–5 cm thick. The oblong leaves are fleshy and lie very close together. They are white at the bottom and become pale yellow near the top. If the roots are not completely protected from light during the sprouting period, the leaves get greenish tips and have an unpleasantly bitter taste.


Ingredients


The bitter principle lactucopicrin (intybin) gives chicory its slightly bitter but nevertheless agreeable taste. 100 g contain:


Chicory, fresh
Energie (kcal)
17
Wasser (g)
92
Eiweiß (g)
1,3
Fett (g)
0,2
Kohlenhydrate (g)
2,3
Ballaststoffe (g)
1,3
Vitamin A (μg)
572
β-Carotin (mg)
3,4
Vitamin B1 (μg)
100
Vitamin C (mg)
8,7
Folsäure (μg)
52
Kalium (mg)
194
Calcium (mg)
26



Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions


The storage of chicory is very demanding. In a dark, cold and moist room it can be kept for up to 3 weeks; if it is stored at 12°C it will keep for only about 1 week. If chicory is stored at room temperature and in daylight, the leaves turn green after only a few hours and produce bitter constituents. Brown-red spots form where the chicory is bruised or damaged.

When buying chicory, you should make sure that the tips are still golden yellow, in which case you may assume that the goods are fresh and have been properly stored.


Presumed effect on health


Chicory has a diuretic effect.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


Fresh, crispy salads can be prepared with chicory. Remove the outer leaves and cut the chicory in rings. Unusual salad combinations with fruits have a splendid aroma; particularly suited are pineapple, mandarin oranges, bananas, raisins, grapes and apples.

The leaves can also simply be dipped in a dressing and eaten whole. A cocktail dressing or an avocado dip is excellent for this. Or try a warm sesame-balsamic dressing with honey. The sweetness of the dressing goes especially well with the slightly bitter chicory.

In addition to being eaten raw, chicory lends itself to warm dishes. In soups, casseroles or as a side vegetable with meat and fish dishes, chicory has varied uses.

Tip: Never prepare chicory in pots or pans made of iron, because it will turn black.


Miscellaneous


Earlier, the root itself was eaten as a vegetable. Today it is cultivated only to produce shoots.

 

 

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