Foraging for Chicory

A delightful coffee alternative, medicinal properties, and gorgeous bright colored blooms… What’s not to love about chicory?

I knew there was something quite special about this plant the instant I spotted one for the first time. The color took my breath away for a second.

A common and sometimes misunderstood plant, chicory belongs to the sunflower and daisy family called Asteraceae, close cousins to lettuce and dandelions. Ah, sunflowers and daisies are 2 of my 5 favorite flowers.

Medicinally, chicory has been being used worldwide for hundreds of years as a liver tonic, to relieve upset stomachs, detoxify, calm the nerves, regulate the heartbeat, and much more.

Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant with either purple or blue flowers that bloom from about July to October. The flower petals are quite bitter, hence why they aren’t used nearly as much as the rest of the plant. But boy are they pretty, and they help with the ease of identifying the plant.

The leaves can be blanched to release some of their bitterness, and then used in as many was as the mind can imagine (read further down for some lovely suggestions!) Their slight bitterness has been likened to dandelion greens, which has also earned them the name Italian dandelion.

The money is in the roots, and that’s what I mainly focus on using in the rest of this article.

Where you Can Find Chicory

The scraggly stalks of chicory are most often spotted in densely packed “weedy” areas across the US and Canada. They are common near roadsides and in fields. They are a hardy plant and do well in most environments.

Harvesting the Roots

The roots resemble large carrots, in my opinion. They are ready to be harvested once the crown reaches about 5-7 inches (13-18 cm.) in diameter. The usable portion of the taproot may be up to 9 inches (23 cm.) long.

After cleaning and removing soil, the roots may be cubed and roasted for grinding. Ideally, they should be used within a few days of harvest, as they typically don’t store well for long periods. So, if you have several plants, don’t harvest them all at once; go back and harvest another root when you need it.

Uses for Chicory

  • The leaves can be used raw or blanched in salads. They have a mild-to-peppery flavor.
  • Some apply a paste of chicory leaves directly to the skin for swelling and inflammation.
  • Use as a cooking spice and to flavor foods and beverages.
  • Add ground chicory to your coffee grounds to enhance the richness of the coffee.

chicory root

Interesting Fact

Chicory roots contain oligosaccharide-enriched inulin, a prebiotic vital to the immune system that stimulates the growth and activity of probiotics. Oligosaccharides are present in only a few sources: breast milk, for one, as well as Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, legumes, and bananas.

Please feel free to Share your favorite recipes & uses below in the comments!!

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