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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

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Chicory in flower

Chicory in flower.

Season: Spring & Summer

Urban, Rural or Both: Both

Chicory (Cichorium intybus). This plant is very common to see along the side of roads and walking paths. I suggest not using these, only use ones away from paths and roads. Along the sides of roads there is often a lot of pollution, and the ones along paths could have dog pee on them.

Chicory Greens:

The leaves from this plant are a highly appreciated vegetable all over Europe. Often grown without light (Blanching) which makes them less bitter and white. A variation of this plant is sold as Endive (Cichorium endivia).

Before the plant produces a stalk, it is easy to mistake for a Dandelion. Not a problem, they both have a similar taste, and are good for the same uses. Once the plant forms a central stalk, you know it must be a Chicory, as Dandelions never produce a stalk - all leaves and flowers come from the base.

Before the plant flowers, some people find the leaves not too bitter to eat raw, but once there are flowers on the plant, the leaves are so bitter that you must boil them in water (pouring the water away) before using in meals. However, they are not bitter because of any poison that will hurt you, it is just a taste issue. There are cultures that appreciate the bitterness, and I have to say, after years of eating the leaves from this plant and the Dandelion, you do grow used to it to the point it is not unpleasant.

Once boiled and the water poured off, you can use the leafy greens in any recipe. I find they go well with tomato sauces and in stir-fry's. I suggest that if you are not used to the bitter taste, boil for longer than is needed to cook them, pour off the water, add fresh water, bring to a boil again, pour that water off, then use the greens. It is true you will lose some of the nutrients by doing this, but it is a good way to get used to the taste, and you can do only one water change in time.

Chicory Roots:

There are different uses for the Chicory roots. I personally only use them one way: I use them the way I use dandelion roots for coffee. Well washed, chopped up, roasted and stored until I put some in water the night before for making coffee or tea with the next morning. My personal favorite is to mix half and half roasted Chicory and Dandelion root with a touch of Burdock root in a jar and use that mix for the coffee or tea water. See Dandelion section here for more on how I do it.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Chicory page.


Description:

Cichorium intybus range map

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Chicory plant whole

Typical Chicory plant. Picture taken in mid August.


Chicory basal leaves

The basal leaves of the Chicory plant. They look like Dandelion leaves.


ciin_006_php

Basal leaves of a different Chicory. Notice how different they are from the ones above. The leaves are quite variable in margin shape. (Patrick J. Alexander, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)


ciin_001_lvd

Drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 305)





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Important Notes when Identifying
Some Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
Disclaimer


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