Chicory or Belgian endive is a popular winter vegetable in Flanders and far beyond. But did you know that it first saw the light of day thanks to a fortunate coincidence? Some 200 years ago, a gardener in the Botanical Gardens in Brussels hid a handful of unknown seeds under a thick layer of fertile soil. In the dark and without him knowing it, this act would cause the emergence of an icon: Belgian endive or chicory. The endive developed into an essential part of our culinary culture.
Today, this is the only place in the world where these slightly bitter shoots are grown in the proper way: in the darkness and in rich, fertile soil. A unique technique that results in heavenly flavours. Many chefs, in Flanders and beyond, turn to the Belgian endive because it is the most flavourful in the world.
Endive is characterized by its crunchy leaves and slightly bitter taste. The distinctive tangy flavor of each leaf of this vegetable has its own special mystique. Flavor and versatility are key words, as are high nutritional value, high mineral content, and low sodium. There is only one calorie per leaf and zero carbs.
Raw, caramelized or braised; each cooking method shows off a different side of this tasty vegetable. To truly educate yourself about this delicacy, go classic. Wrap endives in ham, then smother them in a lovely rich cheese sauce (or just order Belgian endive ham rolls in cheece sauce on your next visit to Flanders).
To waste as little as possible of this flavorful vegetable, the Cools family from Zemst, home of the fourth generation of open-ground endive cultivators, came up with a creative way of processing the outer leaves of the endive harvest into endive croquettes. This gained them a Food Waste Award in 2020, plus a particularly tasty croquette in which the flavour of endive comes fully into its own.