Endive is a member of the bean family, Solanaceae. It is native to Central and South America and is a deciduous plant. In cultivation it can be found in Portugal, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Colombia, New Zealand, Paraguay, and many other countries. The plant has a tubular shape with a serrated leaflet and a fissured base. The leaves are needle-like and contain numerous oil glands.
The most valuable among the crop are the barberry (Boerhaavia diffusa), Catarrhini (Cyperus rotundus), and Astragalus (aloe vera). Other than these, Endive plants are cultivated for their foliage and flowers only. Some of the other most useful species are the Avena sativa L., Astragalus rhizome (rubia cordifolia), Artemisia vulgaris (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Cissampelos pareira (Cissampelos pareira). The majority of the plants grown for their foliage are used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Some of the plants are not suitable for consumption and are hence classified as medicinal herbs. Medicinal herbs are those with proven health benefits. However, care should be taken to ensure that the dosage is appropriate. As an example, bayberry (Piper nigrum) which contains a substance that causes kidney problems when taken in excess. This substance can cause death if taken at high doses.
When cooking the beans, the endsive oil tends to stick to the cooking surface thus reducing its flavour and aroma. It can be extracted by using cold water or paid visits to a specialist bean cleaner. While cooking, the oil content tends to run off leaving behind a sticky residue. To minimise this problem, the cooked endive should be served immediately after being cleaned so that the residue does not stick to the food.
The primary uses of Endive plants are for culinary and medicinal purposes. It is commonly used to season soups, sauces and stews. It is also used to dry and grind into mulch for ground cover. For the creation of sauces, it can be used in place of butter to bring out the natural nutty flavour. It can be used as a marinade for chicken, beef, pork and seafood. For internal consumption, it can be mixed with olive oil to make a light and nutritious salad dressing.
For the treatment of stomach and intestinal ailments, Endive plants are used both internally and externally. They relieve the symptoms and treat the root cause of the disease. They are effective against parasites as well as bacteria. For internal consumption, the leaves are used as a tonic and a tea can also be made.
The most widely known uses of Endive plants are for landscaping. They grow well in all types of soils and conditions and do not require much attention. The primary care needed for these plants is that they are kept in the correct conditions of light, moisture and temperature. They will even grow on rocks and large stones provided the conditions are right.
In the United States, Endive plants are mainly sold as ornamental grasses or for cut flower arrangements. It is easy to grow and ideal for most areas. It can tolerate most drought conditions and can tolerate low amounts of sunlight. In order to ensure that the plant gets enough nutrition, it is recommended that the soil is fertilized weekly during the growing season. The root system needs to be regularly washed, so regular watering is required. If the soil is over-watered, it may become compacted and this will affect growth and blooming.
The plant's leaves should be brushed off periodically because they become stained and discolored easily. Other than that, the leaves are generally healthy and don't need any special treatment to last for several years. The young leaves are usually used for salads and garnishes, while the mature leaves are used for cooking and garnishing.
There are various other ornamental varieties of Endive plants available in the market, but most people prefer the curly varieties. The curly varieties are very pretty and look great planted in large clusters in the garden. The curly Endive plants are used in home and commercial gardens for trimming hedges and for creating borders in flowerbeds. These plants are suitable for almost all areas, since they do not need much maintenance. Some of these plants have been known to grow up to six feet in height.
Endive flowers are grown for their color and beauty. The flower buds are used as garnish and are available in a variety of colors, ranging from white to red to pink in color. In the southern part of England, the plants are mostly grown for ornamental purposes. A well-kept garden with good drainage is a must for growing these plants. The root system of these plants is very shallow and they prefer a lot of sunlight and good water availability. If you want to buy or grow Endive plants, then there are several varieties available in the garden nurseries, greenhouses or online stores.