Monday, August 14, 2006

wildflower journal - chicory


These sky-colored, daisy-like flowers (and they are part of the Compositae family) grow stemless on a rigid stalk. They were introduced from Europe but are now widely found on roadsides and in waste places throughout North America.

Chicory has a deep tap root which helps it grow in hard packed, rocky ground. The root of the chicory plant is sliced, kiln-dried, ground and roasted to a rich dark brown color, like coffee beans. When mixed with coffee, it adds body, aroma, color and mellowness. For many years chicory was used to stretch coffee supplies when pure coffee was a luxury. Chicory, by the way, has no caffeine. Apparently the specific taste of some famous New Orleans coffee brands is due to the blend of dark roasted coffee and chicory. Find some chicory FAQs and recipes for ground chicory beverages here.

Chicory’s first spring leaves are also edible as a green -- although I've never tried them. Find them low to the ground as they form a leaf-circle (basal rosette, resembling dandelion) early in the spring. Chicory is also related to endive - another common edible green.

Chicory flowers open and close every day. You’ll have to catch them in the morning, though, as most are closed by noon.

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For more wild flowers - check out this white collection from the Yukon (posted by Rebecca).

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