Sugarloaf endive

Growing sugarloaf endive is probably the closest most Atlanta-area farmers will come to growing Belgian endive. The pale green inner leaves can be used in any recipe that calls for Belgian endive.

It’s one of the most sought after winter vegetables at Nicolas Donck’s booth at the Saturday morning Morningside Farmers Market. The crisp leaves have a little bitter edge characteristic of all the members of the chicory family.

Donck, of Crystal Organic Farm in Newborn, got his start with this particular chicory with seed brought to the States after a trip to Austria. “I didn’t know what to expect at all, but when I grew it, I loved it. Soon, seeds became available through Johnny’s Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds and others, and now it’s one of the four chicories we grow regularly,” he said. He’s been bringing it to market for six years now and has some customers who come back for it week after week in season.

It’s so popular with his market customers that he doesn’t always have any for his restaurant clients such as Joshua Hopkins, the executive chef at Empire State South, who regularly buys sugarloaf endive for a roasted apple and endive salad.

Donck refers to sugarloaf endive as a sort of green radicchio that self-blanches, creating the pale heart. “It grows a dense head like a cabbage, and the outer leaves can be used for wrapping fillings,” he said. “The naturally blanched inner leaves are really good in a salad, and I loved the roasted version that’s been served at Cakes and Ale.”

Sugarloaf endive takes longer to grow than most chicories and bolts quickly in warm weather, so the time to enjoy it is right now. By April, Donck will have no more.

His favorite way to prepare it at home is to chop it up finely, toss it with walnuts and then dress the salad with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dulse flakes and raw garlic. Sometimes he varies the salad by using walnut oil or adding a little maple syrup. “Let it sit 10 minutes, toss it again and then eat it,” he said. “Divine.”

Farmers markets opening soon

March 1, Freedom Farmers Market, Atlanta.

March 1, Green Market at Piedmont Park, Atlanta.

For sale at local farmers markets

Vegetables: arugula, Asian greens, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, endive, escarole, frisee, herbs, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga, spring onions, sweet potatoes, turnips

From local reports

Empire State South’s Sugarloaf Endive Salad

Hands on: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Serves: 6

This recipe comes from Joshua Hopkins, the executive chef at Empire State South. He suggests wheat berries in this recipe but says you can use millet, quinoa, wild rice or any gluten-free grain instead. If you can’t find very small apples like champagne or lady varieties, use two of the smallest apples you can find.

1/4 pound Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon Georgia olive oil

1/4 cup wheat berries

Salt and pepper

2 heads sugarloaf endive (about 1 1/2 pounds), quartered, cored, cut into thin strips

6 champagne or lady apples, thinly sliced horizontally

4 light yellow interior ribs of celery with leaves, slivered

1 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Have 1 rimmed baking sheet ready.

In a medium bowl, toss Jerusalem artichokes with 1 tablespoon olive oil until evenly coated. Arrange artichokes on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

While artichokes are roasting, in a small saucepan, add enough lightly salted water to cover wheat berries by one inch and bring to a boil. Cook wheat berries until tender, about 30 minutes, adding more water if needed. When wheat berries are done, drain and cool. Set aside.

When all ingredients are ready, in a large bowl, toss together endive, apples, celery, radishes, reserved wheat berries, reserved Jerusalem artichokes and vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Per serving, entire recipe: 277 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 3 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 17 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 46 milligrams sodium.

Per serving, without vinaigrette: 162 calories (percent of calories from fat, 27), 2 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 45 milligrams sodium.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 1/2 cups (serving size 1 tablespoon)

1 cup apple cider

1 cup Georgia olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 small shallot, minced.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1/2 tablespoon chopped thyme

1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seeds or whole grain mustard

In a small saucepan, bring apple cider to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

When cider is cool, in a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, shallot, dill, thyme and mustard seeds. Taste for seasoning. May be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before using.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 90 calories (percent of calories from fat, 93), trace protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 9 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, trace sodium.

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