Califonia Bountiful

European vegetable takes root in Solano County

Rio Vista is home to America's only Belgian endive plant.

Rio Vista is a small town in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with an unusual claim to fame: It's home to America's only Belgian endive plant. California Vegetable Specialties is the brainchild of Rich Collins, who has seen meteoric growth in his production and demand for the vegetable since he began the endeavor more than 20 years ago.

Endive comes from chicory plants, which are grown in Northern California, harvested, then raised in the dark for several months before they are ready for the market. California Vegetable Specialties produces 25 million endives a year.

"Endive has a lot to offer," Collins said. "It's not only a different vegetable in terms of color, texture and taste, being slightly bitter. It's a nutritional powerhouse, a great source of complex fiber and sugar, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals as well."

A new crop at the plant is a dandelion, which spends much of its life in the dark before being harvested and shipped to upscale restaurants to be used on salads.

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