Endive is prevalent in many cuisines and packed with health benefits. There are multiple names and varieties for endive, but they all share a signature bitter taste.
Although the various types of endive are popular with people around the world, are they safe for guinea pigs too? Let’s find out!
Guinea pigs can eat all varieties of endive and escarole on a regular basis. This leafy green is a favorite of many piggies!
However, nutrient profiles can vary based on the different types of endive. Throughout the rest of the article, I’ll cover the best frequency and amount to feed for each type.
*Important Note: The quantity of endive shown in the photos is for visual purposes only and not indicative of the correct amount to feed your guinea pig in one serving.
Endive vs Escarole vs Chicory
Since these three names are often used interchangeably, it can get very confusing trying to determine the difference between them. Before getting to the rest of the article, I’ll clear up the varieties and clarify each one.
First of all, we have curly endive (pictured above). This is sometimes called “chicory” or “endive chicory.” Some people also refer to it as frisée (pronounced free-zay).
Curly endive leaves are thin and curly. This type of endive looks like a cross between lettuce and dandelion leaves.
Escarole (shown to the right) is a variety of endive that looks very similar to lettuce; the leaves are wider and flatter than curly endive.
Despite its appearance, escarole tastes noticeably more bitter than lettuce. However, it is much milder in flavor than curly endive.
To make it more confusing, there is Belgian endive, also called witloof chicory depending on where you live. This endive looks vastly different than the previous two. Belgian endive is small, yellowish, and has a bullet-shaped appearance.
All three of these types of endive are from the chicory family, along with radicchio. All plants in the chicory family have a bitter taste, with some types sharper in flavor than others.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Curly Endive?
Characterized by its curly, lacy-looking leaves, curly endive is sometimes referred to as endive chicory. The leaves resemble dandelion greens in appearance, with bright green leaves and long white stems.
Curly endive is perfectly safe for guinea pigs to eat, although it tends to have a sharp, bitter flavor that some guinea pigs may dislike. However, many piggies are drawn to the leafy texture and don’t seem to mind the bitterness.
Curly endive contains about 6.5mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams, which is low in comparison to green sweet peppers containing just over 80mg of Vitamin C in the same amount.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Escarole?
Escarole looks very similar to lettuce with its larger, broad leaves. However, escarole is a flat-leaf variety of curly endive with a similar nutrient make-up. Guinea pigs can eat escarole multiple times a week.
It is milder in flavor than both curly and Belgian endive, but it still has a bitter edge to it. Many guinea pigs that love lettuce are also drawn to escarole.
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Belgian Endive?
Belgian endive is another variety that is safe for guinea pigs to eat. Belgian endive is quite low in calcium at 19mg per 100 grams. However, it is also a fairly insignificant source of Vitamin C.
Belgian endive can be identified by its small shape and primarily white leaves with yellowish tips. It is oval in appearance and also goes by the name “witloof chicory.”
Can Guinea Pigs Eat Radicchio?
Sometimes called red endive, radicchio is another plant from the chicory family that is safe to feed your piggy. Radicchio is a big hit with many guinea pigs, and it has some great nutrients.
It is low in calcium and can be fed several times a week. Like other types of endive, radicchio is not overly high in Vitamin C, so be sure to offer other foods that are a better source of this nutrient.
Benefits of Feeding Endive to Guinea Pigs
Endive Boasts a Variety of Vitamins
Endive is a great source of several vitamins and minerals. It’s especially high in Vitamin K1, which is essential for healthy blood clotting and strong bones.
It is also an excellent source of Vitamin A, which promotes strong vision and protection against various eye diseases. Endive contains some copper and folate as well. Additionally, endive is low in oxalic acid, high in fiber, low in calories, and contains no fat.
Endive and Escarole Are Rich in Antioxidants
Endive and escarole are both rich in many different kinds of antioxidants. These help the body by neutralizing free radicals that damage cells. Free radicals can cause a condition known as oxidative stress when they are not kept in check.
Oxidative stress greatly increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious chronic diseases. It also causes the body to age faster.
Feeding fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants is one of the best ways to reduce these risks.
In addition, endive contains a powerful antioxidant called kaempferol, known for its anti-cancer properties.
Kaempferol has also been shown to help reduce and protect against chronic inflammation. This can be especially beneficial for guinea pigs suffering from problems like arthritis.
Risks of Feeding Your Guinea Pig Endive
There are very few concerns with feeding endive. Generally, it can be safely included as a regular part of your guinea pig’s weekly veggie rotation. However, there are some small potential concerns to be aware of.
Calcium Levels in Curly Endive and Escarole
Belgian endive is very low in calcium, at 19mg per 100 grams. On the other hand, curly endive and escarole do contain a reasonable amount of calcium. However, it’s not excessively high, especially when compared to other leafy greens.
Curly endive and escarole sit around the middle of the range for calcium levels based on other commonly fed vegetables, as you can see in the table below.
However, if your guinea pig has any previous issues with bladder stones or sludge, it could be a good idea to limit the amount of endive in their diet.
For otherwise healthy guinea pigs, the calcium content is not a significant concern as long as it’s not fed every day.
If you’re concerned about the calcium content, keep an eye out for powdery white calcium deposits around your piggy’s cage once their urine has dried.
If you notice any of these spots, simply cut down on the endive and encourage your guinea pig to drink plenty of water until the calcium deposits disappear again.
Disadvantages of Belgian Endive
The main disadvantage to Belgian endive is the price. Growing Belgian endive is a two-part process, including 28 days in cold storage before harvest. This bumps the price tag up significantly, often making it one of the most expensive vegetables on the market.
Belgian endive is also very low in Vitamin C, which means you’ll need to feed it alongside other types of veggies that are a better source of this nutrient.
Calcium and Vitamin C in Common Vegetables (per 100 grams)
|Green Sweet Peppers||10mg||80.4mg|
|Belgian Endive/Witloof Chicory||19mg||2.8mg|
|Curly Endive & Escarole||52mg||6.5mg|
Potential Allergic Reactions
Like other foods, there is always a chance that your guinea pig is allergic or has a bad reaction to endive. This is rare, but it’s always important to introduce new foods gradually and keep an eye on your guinea pig in case they have an adverse reaction.
How Often Can Guinea Pigs Eat Endive?
Guinea pigs can eat Belgian endive (aka witloof chicory) almost daily. However, this veggie is not very high in Vitamin C, which is crucial for guinea pigs to get from their diet every day.
For this reason, it’s essential to rotate through a variety of vegetables and combine endive with other foods that are higher in Vitamin C.
Curly endive and escarole can be fed to your guinea pig a few times a week. You can offer up to a couple of leaves at a time. Since this variety is a bit higher in calcium, it shouldn’t be fed every day.
It’s also a good idea to avoid feeding it at the same time as vegetables that are high in calcium, so your guinea pig isn’t consuming an excess of calcium all at once.
Do Guinea Pigs Like Endive?
Most guinea pigs love leafy greens like endive. Endive can have a bit of a sharp taste, but surprisingly, many piggies love greens with a bit of a bitter edge.
I’ve tried escarole, curly endive, and Belgian endive with my 8 guinea pigs, and I found all the varieties were a big hit! Escarole came out on top, followed by curly endive and Belgian endive.
If you’re thinking about trying out some endive with your guinea pigs, it’s definitely worth trying. All the varieties of chicory, including radicchio, have been very popular with guinea pigs from my experience.
Can Baby Guinea Pigs Eat Endive?
It is safe to feed baby guinea pigs endive. Start introducing small amounts at first, and slowly work up to more. Baby guinea pigs that are still nursing from their mom can nibble on some endive leaves as early as a few days old.
Babies learn to eat new things from their mom, which can prevent them from becoming fussy eaters later in life.
As they wean from their mother’s milk around 3 weeks old, they can start to eat veggies like endive more frequently. Remember to switch up their diet with various vegetables, so they are getting the nutrition they need from different sources.
Curly endive and escarole are good sources of calcium for growing piggies. Still, they are not overly high in Vitamin C. Foods like kale, parsley, and sweet peppers are higher in Vitamin C and make excellent additions to a baby guinea pig’s diet.
How to Prepare and Feed Endive to Your Guinea Pig
To feed endive to your guinea pig, choose a couple of healthy green leaves that are not rotting or overly wilted. Rinse them thoroughly under cool water to remove any tiny bugs, dirt, pesticide traces, and germs.
Briefly dry off the majority of the water droplets and offer your piggies a leaf or two of the endive. There’s no need to chop the leaves into smaller pieces or remove the stem, as all parts of the endive are safe to feed.
To store the remaining endive, place it in a vegetable crisper in the refrigerator. Loosely wrapping it in plastic or putting it in a perforated bag helps to preserve the freshness for as long as possible.
Avoid washing the endive until you’re ready to feed it. For best results, it should be used up within about 5 days.
It’s important to always feed your guinea pig raw, uncooked endive. Cooked vegetables lose many of their nutrients and are also more challenging for guinea pigs to digest than raw.
How to Introduce A New Food For The First Time
If your guinea pig has never tried endive, introduce it gradually. Start with one leaf or a little less the first few times. Many guinea pigs will eat it right away, while others may take a few nibbles and ignore it. Sometimes you’ll need to leave it in the cage for a while to give them a chance to eat more at their own pace.
Often guinea pigs take a bit of time to adapt and try a new type of food, so if they don’t eat it right away, try it for a few more days.
This is quite normal for guinea pigs. In the wild, their ancestors would avoid poisonous plants by trying tiny amounts and seeing if it made them sick before making it a staple part of their diet. Pet guinea pigs often do the same thing when presented with a novel food.
To get them eating something new, it often helps to give the new veggie separately from their regular vegetables (i.e., new veggie in the morning, regular veggies at night.) Guinea pigs are often more willing to try something if they have fewer options.
You can also try shredding the endive up very finely and mixing it with other veggies to get them used to the taste.
Keep an eye on your guinea pig for several hours after they try the new food to ensure that they are acting normal and have no signs of diarrhea or stomach discomfort. As long as there’s no diarrhea or odd behavior, you can gradually increase the amount of endive next time.
It’s also a good idea to introduce no more than one new food at a time. This way, you can easily identify which new food is causing problems if you notice any unusual behavior from your piggy.
Fun Facts About Endive
- Curly endive is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region
- Curly endive takes 85 to 100 days to grow from seed to harvest
- Curly endive is pronounced “in-dive.”
- Belgian endive is pronounced “on-deev.”
- Belgian endive was discovered in Brussels, Belgium.
- Belgian endive is produced in a two-part process; first it is grown in a field for 150 days, then brought into cold storage for 28 days
More Fruits and Vegetables That Guinea Pigs Can Eat
Did you know that guinea pigs can also eat dill, basil, and raspberries?
For a complete list of all the fruits and vegetables that guinea pigs can eat, check out our article, Complete List of Safe Foods for Guinea Pigs.