Now that Autumn is with us, my Endives, which struggled even to survive during the Summer, have taken off and are looking really nice. I know that many of my readers think that Endive and Chicory / Radicchio is too bitter (though of course that is a matter of personal preference), but I have an answer to this: blanch the Endive. Blanching (literally "making white") means to exclude light, thus making the plant pale. Don't ask me why, but pale leaves are sweeter. Does chlorophyll taste bitter??
Blanching of Endives can be achieved in a number of ways. In France, where Endives are very popular, commercial growers often use purpose-made Endive-blanchers that are shaped like a domed dinner-plate. The blancher is simply placed on top of the growing plant. You can also get blanchers that are a bit like Rhubarb-forcers, normally made of terracotta, that look like tall upside-down flower-pots. However, you can achieve much the same effect with a piece of string!
This is my technique: on a dry day (wet foliage rots quickly), gather all the leaves of the Endive together and tie a piece of soft string around the outside, not too tightly, but firmly enough to keep the leaves in place.
I normally secure the string with a bow knot, so that I can easily untie it to adjust the tension if necessary.
Apart from watering occasionally if necessary, all you have to do now is wait. Wait for about a week to ten days, by which time the inner leaves will be a pale yellow colour, at which point you cut off the plant at its base, discard the outer leaves, and eat the inner ones in your salad.
During the blanching period I sometimes untie the string briefly, just to check progress, and to remove any leaves that have rotted or gone mildewy - which can happen if the plant is wet and/or if the temperature is too high. My method is better for avoiding fungal growths than containing the whole plant in a pot-like Endive-blancher, because it allows better ventilation.
This next photo shows an overhead view of a plant that has been tied.
Compare it with this:
Of course this photo is of an immature plant, which is not yet ready for tying, but at least it demonstrates the star-shaped structure of the plant so that you can better understand how the tying-up operation works.
My final word on the subject is this: when your Endive is ready to eat, I suggest serving it with a nice sharp French Dressing (with lots of finely-diced Shallots in it) - or better still, a creamy Blue Cheese dressing. For Jane and me, blanched Endive is the classic accompaniment to a rack of Lamb, served with Gratin Dauphinois, so I think we'll be looking out for a suitable rack next time we go shopping...