Endive actually comes from the chicory root (those who have frequented New Orleans surely have tried the famous coffee which is flavored with chicory - used to cut the edge of the bitter coffee grounds). Farms plant chicory seeds and once the leaves have matured, the green tops are cut and discarded and the roots are pulled from the ground and brought into an indoor location where they are kept at high humidity and mild temperatures and given doses of hydroponic-based water/fertilizer solution. Since they are grown inside without sunlight, the vegetable is mostly white in color! Eventually the roots begin sprouting little white leaves (see picture from http://www.endive.com/ below):
The plants stay inside for the full growth period then they are picked and sorted into three grades based on size (baby, standard and extra) ans sent to market. The chicory roots can only grow one endive plant before being recycled as high grade cattle feed.
The video was provided to our Chef by California Vegetable Specialties and you can see step by step pictures of the process as well as learn more about the history of this delicate lettuce on their website.
Hopefully this makes you think about how other fruits and vegetables are grown and cultivated. There is a wealth of information online and when you visit your local farmer's markets, talk to the farmers - they will love to tell you their stories.
Happy St Patrick's Day to you all!
Chow for now. :)