The Very Useful Chicory

The Very Useful Chicory
Chicory is also known as succory. The latter was one of the names used by Thomas Jefferson. The plant also goes by various other common names.

According to a German folktale, a young German girl grieving after the tragic death of her lover died from a broken heart along the roadside, where she was turned into this flower. For that reason, the German name for the plant translates as “watcher of the road” or “road plant.”

Uses for Chicory

Chicory happens to be one of the most useful weeds around. It serves a number of non-culinary and culinary roles. The blossoms, leaves, and roots have been used for various purposes since ancient times.

The leaves, which become bitter with age, can be eaten both cooked and raw. They’re often added to salads. When dried, the foliage can also be used for tea. The roots are cooked and served as a vegetable.

Humans aren’t the only animals that consume chicory foliage for these have been grown as food for cattle, sheep, and horses. These should be fed to cows in moderation since eating a lot of it can make the milk and butter taste bitter.

Chicory blossoms can be eaten raw in salads, pickled, or candied. Even the seeds of chicory don’t go to waste as these are savored by flocks of goldfinches.

Chicory-based drinks made from the roots have long been a favorite, especially during wartime. For this purpose, those varieties with large roots are ideal. Once the root is dried, roasted, and ground, it is ready to use as a coffee flavoring or coffee additive. This has been used as a coffee-like drink during hard times for centuries.

During the Napoleonic wars in Europe when blockades cut off the coffee supply, Europeans began turning back to chicory as a substitute. This drink had been popular in Germany since 1770. During the war, the French began growing the plant for this purpose.

After the war ended, Europeans began mixing the chicory with coffee and the blend became very popular, which explains how chicory flavored coffee also became widely popular in New Orleans as a result of French influence.

Later, when some unscrupulous American coffee dealers began to add large quantities of chicory to coffee as an adulterant, this led to numerous complaints from consumers. As a result, labels on coffee were required to disclose the percentage of chicory such packages contained.

This useful plant has many non-culinary uses as well. The liquid distilled from the flowers has been used to treat various ailments. The leaves, roots, and blossoms have served various medicinal roles since ancient times.

In the past, chicory has served as a dye. The milky sap derived from the root has been used as a chewing gum.

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