The Benefits of Growing Wild Chicory©
By Arlene Wright-Correll
Wild Chicory is a bushy perennial herb with blue, purple, or occasionally white flowers.
Wild Chicory is grown and cultivated for their leaves or for the roots which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. The Wild Chicory leaves are used in salads, often times preferred over the Dandelion. The Wild Chicory leaves are cut and generally blanched, as the unblanched leaves are bitter. The young blanched heads are also a good vegetable for cooking, similar to Sea Kale. Planting outdoors is really simple. Just plant this perennial in a sunny spot with proper drainage and it will come back year after year.
One of the biggest benefits is the Finch love the seeds and since store bought Finch seeds have become more and move expensive over the years; this is really a simple way of attracting these beautiful birds.
Just about any visitor to New Orleans, including myself, has tasted an obligatory cup of the city’s signature blend of coffee and chicory. But chicory’s varieties and uses extend far beyond a slow Sunday brunch at Café du Monde.
When cooked, the roots taste like parsnips, but they are almost too skinny to bother with. Instead of boiling them, however, you can scrub them and roast them slowly until brittle and dark brown inside. Grind and brew them like coffee or blend with regular coffee. The resulting beverage tastes much like coffee but doesn’t contain caffeine.
People, for at least 5,000 years, have cultivated chicory for its medicinal benefits.
According to the “doctrine of signatures” (a renaissance theory that a plant’s appearance indicates its healing properties) the milky sap of chicory demonstrated its efficacy in promoting milk flow in nursing mothers, or perhaps diminishing it if it were too abundant; it seems to have been prescribed for both conditions.
The blue of the blossoms and their tendency to close as if in sleep at noon (in England) suggested the plant’s use in treating inflamed eyes. The bruised leaves have been poultices on swellings while root extracts have been used as a diuretic and laxative, and to treat fevers and jaundice.
The second-century physician Galen called chicory a “friend of the liver,” and contemporary research has shown that it can increase the flow of bile, which could be helpful in treating gallstones.
Much laboratory research also has shown root extracts to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. They also slow and weaken the pulse and lower blood sugar. Leaf extracts have similar, though weaker, effects.
Chicory is a good source of folic acid, necessary for the formation and maturation of red blood cells and in the synthesis of DNA; potassium, which is required for the contraction of skeletal and heart muscle and for the transmission of nerve impulses; and vitamin A. One of the traditional bitter herbs of Passover, it is eaten as a spring tonic in many cultures.
A compound called maltol (3-hydroxyl-2-methyl-4-pyrone) from chicory (as well as larch bark, pine needles and roasted malt) is used in baked goods to intensify the flavor of sugar 30-to-300-fold.
The colonists bought it to America mainly as a medicinal crop.
Thomas Jefferson and others grew it as a forage crop. Since it doesn’t dry well, it was usually cut and fed green to horses, cattle, sheep, poultry and rabbits.
As I said it is an easy to grow perennial and the thing I like the best of it is it attracts the finch and I really enjoy watching these birds flit around these lovely blue flowers.
May the Creative Force be with you,