Monday, 11 October 2010

Blanching Endives

As I'm sure you know, Endives are a salad plant in appearance somewhat similar to lettuce. In some parts of the world they are known as Chicorée. They come in two basic types - the curly type (Chicorée Frisée or Curly Endive), and the Batavian, or broad-leaved type, sometimes known as Scarole or Escarole. Unlike lettuce, they have a slightly bitter taste - which is actually quite attractive if you like that sort of thing. It can make a nice contrast in a mixed salad, particularly one served with a sweet dressing (such as a honey-based one). Some people however prefer to reduce the bitterness of Endives by blanching them. Blanching [from the French word "Blanche" (white)] is achieved by excluding light.

Curly Endive

Batavian or broad-leaved Endive

I have not had huge success with growing Endives in the Summer. They do not like my dry sandy soil and tend to bolt at the slightest excuse. For this reason I normally grow them in the Autumn. This means sowing the seed in July some time, and transplanting seedlings to their final position in late August or thereabouts. Note though that different varieties of Endive are bred to be grown at different times of the year, so check carefully before buying your seeds.

Endive seedlings -- late July

Endives - first week of September

Having followed this pattern again this year, I have some Endives that are ready for blanching now. To be honest, I would like them to be bigger, but I am mindful that we are likely to get the first frosts of the year any time now, and Endives will not like this, so I had better take what I can while it's available. Many varieties of Endive are reasonably frost-hardy (down to a couple of degrees below zero), but will certainly welcome some protection from a cloche or some fleece.

The same Endives ready to be blanched -- looks a bit "jungly" eh?

Blanching can be done in one of two different ways: you can tie the plant up fairly tightly with string; or you can just cover the whole plant with a box or an upturned large flower-pot or bucket. For best results, when using a flower-pot, cover the drainage hole with a piece of tile or something. Do the task on a dry day, because if the leaves are wet they are more prone to rotting. So here is the end result of today's little task -- one Endive blanching by each of the methods I described. It's best to blanch only a couple at a time, in order to ensure a succession of useable crops. Once blanched, the Endives do tend to deteriorate quite quickly and you need to harvest them.

Endives blanching

Close-up of the tied Endive

I will check them in about a week or ten days to see if they are ready, and then at intervals of a couple of days thereafter if they're not. What you are looking for is pale yellow or creamy inner leaves. Don't expect the outer leaves to look nice!

Blanched Endive ready for eating

Serving suggestion:

Serve the Endive hearts with a honey and mustard dressing, as an accompaniment to roast rack of lamb with Gratin Dauphinoise.

Endive salad also goes well with a creamy Blue Cheese dressing - possibly with the addition of a few toasted walnuts.


  1. trying it in my garden now ! excited !

  2. This is very helpful. My endives look exactly as your unblanched example. Thanks

  3. Just the advice I was looking for having grown endive for the first time and not really understanding what blanching them meant...thank you


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