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Chicory Root Is
Best Known For Coffee Flavoring

But did you know that chicory leaves are common salad fare?  A wildflower used from tip to tip.  You can find these beautiful blue flowers growing in many fields across the US.  North, South, East and as far West as Nebraska.

And as wildflower gardens become ever more popular you might even find them growing in your neighbor's back yard.  A wild flower starter pack would seem to be missing a star if it does not include  seeds.

I love coming across these blue flowers as I walk on many forest paths.  They do seem to be quite plentiful in Northern Illinois.  

I miss them now that I've moved further south to North Carolina.  But like you, I will always have these pictures to bring me joy.

These plants have many uses.  They are more than just a pretty face in the wildflower fields of life.  But for those who like to know, I've listed a botanical breakdown of this useful flower in nature.

But first take a minute to explore the image gallery...

They Have Been Called Chicory;
Succory; Blue Sailors; Bunk

Cichorium Intybus

  • Flower-head:  Bright, deep azure to gray blue, rarely pinkish or white, 1 to 1-1/2 inches broad, set close to stem, often in small clusters for nearly the entire length; each head is a composite of ray flowers only, 5-toothed at upper edge, and set in a flat green receptacle.
  • Stem:  Rigid, branching, 1 to 3 feet high.
  • Leaves:  Lower ones spreading on ground, 3 to 6 inches long, spatulate, with deeply cut or irregular edges, narrowed into petioles (stalk that joins the leaf to the stem), from a deep tap-root; upper leaves of stem and branches minute, bract-like.
  • Preferred Habitat:   Roadsides, waste places, fields.
  • Flowering Season:   June-October.
  • Distribution: Common in eastern United States and Canada, growing as far south as the Carolinas.  You might even find them sparingly as far west as Nebraska.

Their Root Flavors Coffee
May Even Act As A Substitute

Most people are familiar with ground root of this plant.  But did you know that it is really an invader from Europe?  Like so many wildflowers and even cultivated flowers, this plant road over on ships with our very own ancestors.

There are many different opinions about the benefits of this root.  Some consider it an improvement others say it is not good.  

In other words some people enjoy the taste of chicory in their coffee.  While others find it not so pleasant.

A word of caution - all chicory you find in the stores is not pure.  Cheaper chicory may well be of a lesser quality by the addition of roasted wheat, rye, acorns, and even carrots.

So when you are actually looking for a quality product, you just might be willing to pay the extra price to get the pure root of the plant only. 

Great Leaves to Enhance Your Salad

Forced and blanched in a warm, dark place, the bitter leaves find a ready market as a salad known as "barbe de Capucin" by the fanciful French.  You may know these leaves as endive.  Dandelion leaves, also chicory's relatives, appear on the table, too in spring, where people have learned the possibilities of salads, as they certainly have in Europe.

Some Roots Run Deep

From the depth to which the tap-root penetrates, it is not unlikely the succory derived its name from the Latin _succurrere_ meaning - to run under.  The Arabic name _chicourey_ testifies to the almost universal influence of Arabian physicians and writers in Europe after the Conquest.

Can You Recognize This flower in These Other Languages?

  • French - chicoree
  • Spanish - achicoria
  • Portuguese - chicoria
  • Italian - cicorea
  • German - chicorie
  • Dutch - cichorei
  • Swedish - cikorie
  • Russian - tsikorei
  • Danes - cicorie

Honoring These Beautiful Blue Wildflowers

Here are a couple of quotes from authors who's very words portray these beautiful blue wildflowers.  Notice how in the first quote there is reference to cloudy days and morning flowers?  Well that refers to the fact that Chicory flowers love cloudy days.  And rain or shine they are all closed up by noon each day.  They really are morning lovers.

"On cloudy days or in the morning only throughout midsummer the "peasant posy" opens its "dear blue eyes"
"Where tired feet
Toil to and fro;
Where flaunting Sun
May see thy heavenly hue,
Or weary Sorrow look from thee
Toward a tenderer blue!""
--Margaret Deland.

In his "Humble Bee" Emerson, too, sees only beauty in the "Succory to match the sky;"

And some writers see them as only pesky weeds. Virgil paints a picture of fields choked by them. For sure, if a farmer were growing something other than chicory and this flower took hold it would be nothing short of a disaster!

Vergil, rarely caught in a prosaic, practical mood, wrote, "And spreading succ'ry chokes the rising field."

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