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Witlof (Belgian endive or chicory)

Photo © Uitgeverij Waanders
Definition: The slightly bitter vegetable with the Latin name Cichorium intybus was first grown near Brussels in the 1840s by trimming the leaves and forcing the roots to produce pale white-and-yellow chicons in the darkness of the soil.

Says master chef Monique Schmeinck in Smaakvrienden, "We say witlof, lof or Brussels lof, but Belgians, who first cultivated the vegetable, call it witloof. The French name is chicorée de Bruxelles." This may explain why the vegetable is known as Belgian endive in US English, and as (Brussels) chicory in UK English.

Schmeinck continues, "Witlof's hard inner cone used to be bitter, but modern cultivation methods have rid the vegetable of much of its natural bitterness. Don't cut out the core if you want a bit of bitter edge. Raw, cooked, baked, roasted, caramelized, stewed, sweet or savory, there are endless ways to enjoy witlof. The vegetable is part of the cichory family, which also includes endive and radicchio. Buy witlof that feels firm to the touch and is bright white in color. Always store witlof in a dark place, because light exposure can cause the outer leaves to turn green or yellow and become unnaturally bitter. Roodlof, the red-leafed variety, is actually a cross between witlof and radicchio. It is usually eaten raw, because the vegetable loses its color during cooking."

Dutch Witlof Recipes and ideas:

  • What do Do with Witlof
  • Witlof, Goat's Cheese & Bacon Bites
  • Witlof Salad with Blue Cheese, Hazelnuts & Grapes
  • Pan-Fried Tart with Witlof & Chevre
  • Pan-Fried Salmon with Witlof, Spinach & Fennel Salad
  • Also Known As: Lof, Witloof (Belgian), Loof (Belgian)
    Alternate Spellings: Witloof (Belgian)
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