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Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

A large family is centred around this plant, as well as an international disagreement over the name. In the UK and in Belgium what is known as chicory resembles a very tight-leaved, spear-shaped, white cluster of leaves; it was developed by accident in the middle of the 18 hundreds in Brussels (by the head gardener at the botanical gardener and called witloof by its Flemish breeder. A whole industry is now based on this plant in its homeland, and it is the tight-leaved salad "bud" found in our greengrocers and supermarkets. Just to be awkward the French choose to call this endive - and what we call endive/frisée (Cichorium endivia) they call chicorée.

Wild chicory is much looser, but still bitter-tasting, plant and used by the Greeks and Romans for salads.

The family has been much expanded by breeding to include the likes of 'Magdeburg' or 'Brunswick', 'Pain de Sucre' (Sugar Loaf), 'Radicchio', 'Red treviso', 'Red Verona' and 'Batavia'.

All endives are better blanched, by protecting from the sun for a few days before cutting. To grow "Witloof" (chicons) at home, it"s a necessity; they need warmth and complete darkness foe 4-6 weeks.

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