This leaf vegetable is specifically grown in the dark so that it develops a closely packed, long white head, rather than a loose-leaved green head.
Juicy and sweet tasting with a bitter kick, chicory is closely related to other bitter leaves such as radicchio and endive. It offers a good range of vitamins (A, C, K) and minerals including calcium and potassium.
IN THE KITCHEN
Chicory can be served raw and quartered as crudité, or separated into individual leaves that make good boats for holding dips, salsas and finely chopped salads.
It works well with creamy mixtures and blue cheese in particular - try it in the classic French salad of Roquefort, walnuts and pears. Orange and sultanas are other good partners.
Alternatively, cook it. Halve, brush with oil and grill, braise by packing it in a buttered casserole and adding some stock, or cut it into chunks and sauté it on the stove top. Chicory develops a slippery texture and brown-grey colour when cooked but also a sweeter, mellower flavour that particularly benefits from the addition of butter.