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What is Witloof? What Is Fact? Red Endive Nutrition How it is Grown?


What is Witloof?

Witloof is known in other parts of the world and languages as: Endive, Belgian Endive, French Endive, Witlof, Witloof Chicory, Chicory, Chicon, and Endivia.
The most popular history behind the discovery of Witloof is of a Belgian farmer living near Brussels around 1830 having stored some chicory roots in his cellar, intended to possibly use them later as a coffee substrate. He came to retrieve them at a later time only to discover white shoots coming out of the head of the root due to the climate conditions in the cellar, which he then tried to eat and found edible.

What Is Fact?

Between 1850 and 1851, the head overseer of the Botanical Gardens in Brussels, Monsieur Brezier, developed methods to grow the chicory shoots out of the roots using darkness, warmth, and humidity.  Darkness was essential in producing the white leaves, aka "wit loof", since the plant doesn't produce chlorophyll (the green leaf colouring) without light.  The crop was first sold on the Brussels market in 1867 and later in 1883 in the Halls of Paris.  The witloof crop became bigger and more closed over time as growing techniques improved and better varieties were developed.  Today, witloof is a very common European vegetable whereas in many other areas of the world it is still considered a niche product.

Red Endive

The most known endive or witloof is the white variety. Lately a red variety has been placed in the market.  This makes for a wonderful colour mix into a salad, crispier, and just the right amount of bitterness for the mix. 

Dare to try this in your next salad!


Nutrition (100 grams of fresh product)





Vitamin B1





Vitamin B2










Vitamin C


How is it Grown?

Witloof Chicory is grown in 2 stages:

::  In the first stage, seeds are planted in prepared fields when the soil temperature has reached an acceptable level.  The fields are then carefully monitored and cared for throughout the germination and development of the seed into a plant.  When the plants are deemed mature enough - usually in the Fall - the green leaves on top are cut off and the roots are harvested and transported back to the farm where further sorting happens and the roots get deposited into crates.  The crates of roots are then placed into cold storage and only taken out when needed for the second stage of growth, which is the actual forcing of the witloof.  Almost all of the first stage is done mechanically.

::  In the second stage, the roots are taken out of the cooler and planted in a dark room.  The roots are placed upright in a small layer of water and are placed in an environment where there isn't any light.  The temperature, EC (electro-conductivity or nutrient level), and humidity are controlled hydroponically for about 3 weeks.  During this time the roots grow tiny hairs, which supply the nutrients, and white chicon starts "forcing" itself out of the head.  After 3 weeks, the grower determines if the chicon is ready and the crop is taken out.  The chicons of heads are then carefully picked from the roots and placed in boxes which are cooled down immediately and ready for market.  The picked roots are transported to local dairy farms to be used as livestock feed.

The above processes, from the first seeding in the field until the last harvesting indoor, takes a full 2 years.  The process requires soils with the right condition, substantial field machinery, indoor equipment, both mechanical and
computer control, and grower skills. 

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