Botanical name: Cichorium endive
The endive also known as "Endivia" is often confused with the escarole, a plant belonging to the Astaraceae family. Its scientific name, Cichorium endive, originally came from the eastern areas of the Mediterranean basin.
Origins and history of endive
Endive grew mainly in the Turkenstain and Caucasus region. This variety of plants was known as early as the 2nd century AD. in Greece: Galen, for example, knew it as "intybos"and recommended it as a drug. In fact, folk medicine already had in mind the benefits that the plant could bring to the body and the ailments it could alleviate and cure.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of endive
Since ancient times, therefore, endive was particularly appreciated for some of its beneficial properties. The leaves of the plant, in fact, were used to make an infusion. First of all, this infusion turns out to be a powerful tonic, secondly it is also an effective diuretic and has purifying properties, since the plant is composed for more than 90% water.
It was also recognized as having laxative and antipyretic properties. The infusion actually stimulates the intestine and helps regulate its activity, also if taken when you have a high fever it helps to lower the temperature. As for its nutritional properties, however, it represents a low-calorie and dietetic food. Furthermore, the leaves of the plant are very rich in some vitamins that are very important for human health. In fact, there is a preponderance of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B and even vitamin K. But endive is not only beneficial because it contains many vitamins, it also represents a complete and healthy food above all because it is largely made up of mineral salts, calcium, potassium.
It should also be noted the presence, more reduced, of iron and above all fibers, which help intestinal transit. Last but not least, the plant is on the contrary poor in harmful minerals such as sodium which is present in small percentages.
Use of endive in the kitchen
Endive has a crunchy texture and is used successfully in cooking as it tends to take on the flavor of the foods it comes into contact with. It is therefore an excellent flavoring and is generally used for side dishes.
One of the best known and appreciated endive-based dishes is endive au gratin. The ingredients to make this tasty side dish are basic. First you need to get four or six heads of Belgian endive, a stick of butter or even two according to the amount you deem appropriate to use, grated cheese, salt and pepper. The preparation of the side dish is also really quick and easy. First of all it is necessary to wash and clean the endive well. Once you have washed and dried them, you need to cut them in half, and place them in the pan with the butter. At this point, let your plant simmer after having sprinkled it with salt and pepper. Care must be taken that the endive cooks without sagging and remaining crunchy. Precisely for this reason, if you deem it necessary during cooking, you can wet it with a little water. At the end of cooking you can distribute the grated cheese on the endive, and if you want to make the dish even tastier you can also add some breadcrumbs and let it brown.
Endive is also known to be a excellent substitute for coffee. Younger people may be unaware of this use of the plant, but the older ones still remember the bitter taste of the drink they got from boiling it. It seems that for the first time the plant was used in this way in the seventeenth century, on the recommendation of a Paduan doctor who wanted to exploit its phytotherapeutic capabilities. Later in the years of the Napoleonic campaigns, following the embargo, many resumed using it instead of coffee. The roasted roots of the plant, in fact, have a caramelized and bitter aftertaste that makes them suitable for creating an acceptable substitute for caffeine. Subsequently the practice was replicated during the rationing and the shortage of food in the two world wars.