(Jan. 13) RIO VISTA, Calif. — California Vegetable Specialties has become one of just a handful of companies worldwide to grow and market organic endive.

With production that began in mid-December, the company also is entering its first year of full-fledged commercial production of endigia, a heart-shaped, red-and-white cross between endive and chioggia, another chicory.

California Vegetable Specialties, with its California Pearl label, has offered transitional endive for the past two years, but with its certification this season by San Diego-based Quality Assurance International, it now offers certified organic endive.

Rich Collins, president of California Vegetable Specialties, said he expects to market about 15,000 to 20,000 boxes of organic endive produced from 15 certified organic acres.

Endive is grown in the ground, harvested, then transplanted into boxes in dark rooms in the facility.

“But I think it’s worth it,” he said. “We’re better growers because of it.”

SMALL CLUB

Collins said the company is one of three organic endive producers in the world that he knows of.

The others are in Holland and France.

Collins is aiming the organic endive at the same white-tablecloth and high-end foodservice clientele that seeks conventional endive. The company also will look at some retail business in organic-focused stores.

California Vegetable Specialties grows both conventional and organic endive in red and white varieties. About 10% of both conventional and organic crops are red.

FOODSERVICE MARKET

California Vegetable Specialties is aiming endigia, which is not as bitter as some endives can be, at the foodservice market, Collins said. It comes in 4-pound and 8-pound units.

“It’s gorgeous,” Collins said. “It looks wonderful on a plate. People taste it with their eyes. We even say on the box that it is quite possibly the world’s most beautiful vegetable.”

One person has joined California Vegetable Specialties and another has been promoted recently.

Celina Lemus was promoted from crop technician to production manager at the first of the year. And Howard Hofmann joined as director of endive operations in June.