This summer, my husband brought home a surprise for me. Not a bouquet of flowers, but some brown wilted plants in moist paper towels. He knows I prefer plants over cut flowers. The plants were starter greens from his co-worker. I planted them in our salad table. I assumed the plants were romaine and green leaf lettuce because one had smooth broad leaves and the other had curly thin leaves. When the plants reached mound size, I questioned their identity. The leaves felt tough and tasted bitter. My husband told me it was endive. A quick search through gardening books and the internet solved my greens mystery. It was escarole and curly endive, something I never grew or cooked before.
Highlights of what I learned about endive: 1. Curly endive has the frilly leaves and Batavian endive or escarole has broad leaves. 2. Endive can grow in winter and is less bitter when grown in cooler weather. 3. Blanching endive can reduce bitterness. Curly endive is blanched by covering it with a porous pot. Escarole is blanched by wrapping it with string so the outer leaves will block light from inner leaves. 4. Endive is used in a lot in Italian cooking including soups and saute. 5. Endive is high in vitamin A,B,C and contains Calcium and Iron .
I wrapped my escarole plants with string to blanch the inner leaves hoping they will be less bitter. I plan to make Escarole Bean Soup and Curly Endive and Bean Soup with my hearty mystery greens. Do you have any mysteries growing in your garden?