Growing Belgian Endive in California
Rich Collins was the largest commercial producer, and for the most part the ONLY commercial producer, of belgian endive in the United States for nearly 35 years.
But what is an endive, anyway?
Collins…”Endive is the second growth of a chicory root. The first growth, of course, taking place in the field from seed to produce the root itself, which is like a carrot or parsnip. That root is then brought inside and grown again. And it, and it renders an endive, which is a small, four or five inch long missile shaped bud. On top of that root, quite, quite tight and dense, and it's blanched. So it's a white and yellowish color because it's grown in the virtual absence of light.”
Collins first discovered the endive crop as a dishwasher in the late 1970s. His chef boss knew Rich wanted to be a farmer and recommended growing endives because they were so expensive and hard to find.
Rich ended up taking a year off from his college studies at UC Davis to learn endive farming practices in Europe. He returned to start California Endive Farms in 1983, ultimately selling the business in 2016.