I first knew of chicory as a child when we had coffee with chicory, which mum used to prepare in a percolator (do they still make them?) and also coffee essence – Camp Coffee with the picture of the soldier in a kilt and an Indian soldier in his finery. it was only when I was older that I realised chicory was a root which was no doubt dried and ground up, commonly used as a coffee substitute… I still had no idea what the actual plant was like, and never even thought about it.
The next time I remember a mention was either in an article or book by Katherine Whitehorn, possibly Cooking in a Bedsit, where she mentions a friend who grew chicory in his wardrobe, in a pot of course, in total darkness – the point was that he wasn’t eccentric, but resourceful. That was when I realised it was a vegetables, and like celery, was blanched by protecting it from the sun.
At some point I realised it had another name, endive, and later, when I started reading old cookery books I found it was also called witloof.
The Online Etymological Diciotnary helps us out on the origin of the word:
late 14c., cicoree (modern form from mid-15c.), from Middle French cichorée “endive, chicory” (15c., Modern French chicorée), from Latin cichoreum, from Greek kikhorion (plural kikhoreia) “endive,” which is of unknown origin. Klein suggests a connection with Old Egyptian keksher. The modern English form is from French influence…
late 14c., from Old French endive (14c.), from Medieval Latin endivia or a related Romanic source, from Latin intibus. This probably is connected in some way with Medieval Greek entybon, which Klein says is perhaps of Eastern origin (compare Egyptian tybi “January,” the time the plant grows in Egypt). Century Dictionary says Arabic hindiba is “appar. of European origin…
… and witloof – well, it means ‘white leaf’!
Last year we visited friends in the Netherlands and they took us to a fabulous restaurant where we had the most delicious chicory/endive/witloof… we went again this year, and luckily had it again!
The witloof is lurking at the back, wrapped in ham and coated with a wonderful sauce.