Escarole is a leafy green vegetable that resembles the head of Romaine lettuce. It is used in soups, stir-fry recipes, and sometimes as a substitute for spinach when added to smoothies. Did you know that “what is Escarole” and was used by the ancient Egyptians? Did you also know that it can provide several health benefits and is among some of the most nutritious vegetables available? In fact, this edible weed may be one of the oldest cultivated forms of cabbage in existence! Learn more.
What is Escarole?
Escarole is part of the endive family which includes frisée and curly endive. It is a member of the chicory family along with radicchio and Belgian endives that have been exposed to sunlight causing their leaves to turn white or yellow in color.
Escaroles are often used as an alternative to regular lettuce because of their stronger flavor and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for lettuce. It may also be referred to as Batavian endive or broad-leafed endive.
It is often used in salads and also as a garnish on other dishes. When it’s cooked, escarole becomes more like lettuce or spinach and can be eaten raw or cooked.
History and Etymology for Escarole
The word “escarole” is derived from the French word “chicorée”, which in turn comes from the Latin word “Cichorium”. The original meaning of this word was “wild chicory”, which is a type of bitter lettuce that grows in Europe and North Africa.
This vegetable has been around for centuries and was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his book Naturalis Historia (A Natural History). In fact, some people believe that this green leafy vegetable gave rise to the word “salad” because it was tossed with oil and vinegar before being served at Roman banquets during the time of Augustus Caesar (63 BC – 14 AD).
This is been a popular vegetable in the United States since the early 1900s. Its popularity likely stems from its ease of cultivation, as well as its good flavor and nutritional profile.
What Does Escarole Look Like?
It typically grows to about 2-3 feet tall, and its leaves grow between 4-8 inches long with ruffled edges. At the end of each leaf is a white bulb called the “heart” which has several layers of petals. It can be either red or green depending on the variety of plants it comes from, but it’s usually light green.
What Does Escarole Taste Like?
Escarole tastes slightly bitter when eaten raw; however, this flavor becomes more mellow after cooking. This vegetable tends to absorb flavors well, so it’s often paired with other ingredients in salads or sauces like lemon juice or anchovies (which also adds savory flavor).
Nutritional of Escarole
It is rich in vitamins A, K, C and contains a high concentration of folate. It also has essential minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and potassium which support the body’s performance.
Health Benefits of Escarole
This vegetable is a good source of dietary fiber which helps to lower cholesterol levels and reduces blood sugar. Soluble fiber binds with bile acids that break down fats while it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine that helps break down proteins into amino acids. All these benefits result in healthier cells throughout the body.
In addition to being a good source of dietary fiber, it also provides antioxidants from its Vitamin K content which protects cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA and cause cancer if left unchecked. Vitamin K also aids in the production of bone-building cells which is important for preventing osteoporosis or brittle bones.
It is a good source of folate or folic acid which helps support healthy red blood cell production and prevents free radical damage to the brain. Folate also helps lower levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the bloodstream that can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke, especially when combined with elevated cholesterol.
Escarole contains glucosinolates like indoles and antioxidants like apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, and kaempferol. These two compounds work together to provide anti-inflammatory benefits, cancer prevention, and help detoxify the body.
How to Use Escarole
It can be eaten raw, sautéed, braised, boiled for soup, or stew. It is high in water and fiber so it tends to take on the flavor of other ingredients that are cooking with it. This vegetable works well as a stand-alone side dish or as an ingredient in other dishes like soups and stews.
It also can be cooked in a number of ways like boiling, steaming, microwaving, or stir-frying. When cooking escarole, remember it takes just a few minutes to cook so don’t overcook it. It’s also a good idea to rinse the leaves before cooking them to reduce the bitterness.
Here are a few recipes ideas that use escarole: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes-menus/our-best-spring-escarole-recipes-gallery
Where Can I Buy Escarole?
It can be purchased at most grocery stores throughout the year. It is typically located next to other leafy greens like romaine, kale, or collards. It is typically more available during the winter months. When buying fresh escarole look for leaves that are firm to the touch with no signs of browning or wilting. If purchasing cooked escarole then make sure it’s clean before cooking with it. This vegetable does not store well once it has been cut so it’s best to buy it when you are planning on using it soon.
How To Store Escarole
It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When storing, wrap the leaves in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. You can also freeze escarole by blanching it for 2 minutes then freezing it in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the escarole to a storage container or freezer bag. It will last for about 6-8 months in the freezer.
Pick Out The Perfect Escarole
Best Escarole Substitutes
If this vegetable is not available then you can use other leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard, or collards. These greens can be eaten raw or cooked and will provide many of the same health benefits as escarole. You could also try using cabbage which has a similar flavor and texture to escarole. Cabbage can be cooked in a number of ways and is available year-round.
1. Is escarole lettuce?
Escarole, also known as broad-leaved endive, is a type of chicory and not actually lettuce. However, it looks like and has the texture of lettuce but with a slightly more bitter flavor. This vegetable can be used in place of lettuce in most recipes to add some variety and extra nutrients.
2. What part of escarole do you eat?
All parts of the escarole plant are edible and can be used in cooking. The leaves and the stems can be eaten raw or cooked.
3. Is escarole fattening?
It is neither high nor low in calories so it’s fine to use if you are on a diet or trying to lose weight. It adds fiber and water which make you feel full without adding lots of fat or unnecessary calories.
4. How do you grow escarole?
You can grow your own escarole by planting seeds indoors about 8 weeks before your last frost date, then transplanting them outside after the danger of frost has passed. This vegetable can also be grown from transplants that are available at most garden centers. It does best in full sun but can tolerate light shade. It prefers rich, moist soil but will grow in a wide range of soils.
This green vegetable should be watered frequently to keep the soil moist but not wet. Feed plants with a high-nitrogen fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to help them produce lots of lush leaves.
The escarole you are most familiar with is the curly-leafed variety. It can be enjoyed raw in salads or cooked in soups and stews. This green vegetable packs some good health benefits, so it’s time to give this healthy ingredient another try!
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