Produce manager Frank Pumphrey shows two heads of puntarelle, a funny-looking salad choice in the Trail grocer’s produce aisle. (Sheri Regnier photo)

An ‘endive’ into the leafy goodness of the chicory family

Trail Ferraro Foods manager sheds light on strange-looking salad choice in produce aisle

Trail Ferraro Foods is well known for bringing in a wide array of local and exotic food choices throughout the year.

The grocer’s seemingly endless stock of interesting, sometimes hard to find, high quality foodstuff draws countless shoppers from near and far to its downtown Trail locale.

But this latest one housed in the produce aisle — a bright green, spiky-looking, and heavy head of mystery — had a number of patrons stumped over the holidays.

The Trail Times asked produce manager Frank Pumphrey to shed some light on this intriguing-looking food choice, as well as how it should be prepared and eaten.

He said the product in question is called “puntarelle,” and it is a member of the endive family.

Also known as “cicoria di catalogna” or “cicoria asparago,” it is a variant of the chicory family, which includes endive, escarole, radicchio, and frisee.

The heads are characterized by an elongated shape (about 40 to 50 cm), light green stems, and dandelion-shaped leaves.

Puntarelle shoots are described as having a pleasantly bitter taste.

Frank says to cut off the tips of the stems that have browned, then thinly slice the shoots to toss in with other greens.

“Because they are a member of the endive family, it is bitter-tasting, but good when mixed with other (lettuces), ” he said.

Puntarelle heads are picked when they are young and tender and may be eaten raw or cooked.

Often used as a traditional ingredient in the Roman salad called by the same name, they are prepared with the leaves stripped and the shoots soaked in cold water until they curl.

The salad is served with a prepared dressing of anchovy, garlic, vinegar, and salt pounded and emulsified with olive oil.

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