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Articles - Gourmet Pleasures:

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Choice of interesting preparation methods

Autumn and winter are the seasons when consumers can enjoy local chicory. The crisp winter vegetable with the refreshingly bitter taste can be prepared in a variety of ways. Chicory is delicious raw in salads – where it combines beautifully with avocado and salmon, but also with sweet fruits such as oranges, grapes or mango. The whole leaves can be served with a variety of dips or garnished with smoked salmon, ginger and fresh herbs to make "chicory boats". The aromatic heads are delicious stir-fried in a wok, in soups, baked in the oven, filled with minced meat or simply braised as an accompaniment to meat and seafood. Modern varieties contain only low levels of bitter substances, so that even the stalk can be eaten. If you prefer to reduce the bitter taste, you can add a teaspoon of sugar to the cooking water or soak the leaves for a short while in milk before using them to make salads.

Family and cultivation

Chicory belongs to the same botanical family as asters, daisies and sunflowers (Asteraceae). It is the blanched sprouts from chicory roots. The roots are harvested in the autumn, stored temporarily in a cold store and then put into tubs of warm, temperature-controlled water to sprout. It takes three to four weeks in total darkness for the delicate shoots to develop. They are separated from the root and are ready for cooking when they appear in the shops. The darkness prevents the formation of chlorophyll, so that the shoots retain their pale yellowish green colour. 

Purchase and storage

Fresh chicory will have a firm head and whitish leaves with a light yellow-green tip. Chicory shoots are very delicate and should be handled with care. Chicory doesn’t need much washing, because it never comes into direct contact with the soil. Chicory leaves are best used quickly, because they tend to turn brown after cutting. Wrapped in damp kitchen paper or a towel, chicory will stay fresh in your fridge for about a week.

A healthy winter vegetable

Chicory is low in calories and very healthy: it contains large amounts of vitamins A, B1, B2 and C as well as beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The bitter substances in chicory stimulate the gastric juices and bile production. 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de