Chicory should be white and pale yellow: green tips mean it has been exposed to too much light or and will be bitter. If the outer leaves are brown or damaged, take a peek to see that beneath them all is unblemished.
Blanching chicory in boiling water for a few minutes before cooking it reduces the bitterness. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
Chicory is much more popular on the continent, so is widely available and less expensive: pick up a few chicons if you are in the hypermarket.
The cone-shaped core at the base of the chicory head tends to be especially bitter: cut it out with the point of a sharp knife.
Look out for beautiful red leafed chicory, which has a similar flavour to white chicory.
Since the French name for chicory is endive, and they call curly endive chicoree, be careful when using recipes of French origin. The two names are often confused in translation. The same is true for American recipes, which often, but not always, transpose the two names.
The greengrocer is the place to find chicory, each chicon tenderly wrapped in dark blue tissue paper. It seems due reverence for such a special, and rather dear, vegetable. And the paper has a practical purpose, to continue the good work of the grower and exclude the light which turns the leaves green and bitter even after they have been harvested. So why do supermarkets display chicory covered in a suffocating layer of clingfilm, directly beneath the harsh lights of the cold cabinet? No wonder the leaves are often tinged green.