Chicory Root

Chicory Root

Cichorium intybus

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Other names:
  • Medicinal: Yes
  • Culinary: Yes
  • Ceremonial: No
  • Parts Used: Flowers, stems, leaves and roots.
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About Chicory

Chicory is a wild edible perennial that reaches out from the dandelion family, Asteraceae. This underrated plant has its hands submerged in both medicinal and culinary creations. Chicory is marked by the presence of flowers with a wide range of colors, including lavender, light blue, white, and sometimes pink. Its erect stem is hairy that can be 40 inches tall with stalked leaves.

For millennia, the leaves, buds, and roots of this plant are employed in the medicinal field. The young leaves impart quite a bitter taste but are used anyway in salads to absorb its goodness. The older leaves are cooked or incorporated in cooked dishes to diminish its bitterness. In various parts of the world, the roots of chicory serve as a substitute for coffee. Chicory is also used as forage, particularly in livestock inflicted with parasitic worms.

Chicory flowers are used to spark the appetite, dissolve gallstones, treat gastroenteritis, heal minor cuts and abrasions, and ameliorate sinus related problems. Some individuals might portray bloating, flatulence, belching, and skin irritation. So a brief consultation with doctor/pharmacist before starting chicory therapy wouldn’t harm.

Chicory plants are brimmed with inulin, mannitol, sesquiterpene lactones, vitamins, fats, and trace minerals.

Growing

The plantation of chicory depends on the climate of the region. If the residing climate is warm, then chicory can be sown or transplanted from September through March. For colder regions, chicory is started three to four weeks before all the dangers of frost have departed.

Also, chicory can be started indoors too but they need to be moved to the garden beds as they need space to grow. It prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Mulch and compost can be incorporated into the beds to up-regulate its organic content and prevent the loss of moisture. It is made sure that the soil does not dry out and so around 1 to 2 inches of water is provided to the plant to prevent the drought stress.

Chicory seeds/ cuttings are sown at least 1.5 inches deep and 9 inches apart. The germination time for chicory seeds is 2 to 4 weeks. After sprouting, the seedlings are moved apart from each other to provide them with the room they need to grow.

After sprouting the plant grows healthily and blooms in spring and continues to do so till summer. Chicory is usually hailed as a bee plant due to its long blooming phase. The lavender flowers warmly invite pollinating insects with open arms to carry out pollination. Honey-bees, bees, ground-nesting insects are on the top of the lovers of chicory.

The dried chicory flower stalks bear tiny, light-weighted seeds that can be dispersed by wind to keep up with the lifecycle of chicory.

Harvesting

Chicory plant is cheered highly for its greens and roots as they are celebrated both in the medicinal and culinary department. The chicory leaves are harvested five weeks after planting as the leaves are tender and accordingly large to be used.

The roots of chicory can be harvested anytime between the fall and the upcoming spring.

The leaves can be easily plucked off of the stalks or the whole stalks can be cut. For roots, only 9 inches of its part is usable which is cut by making use of gardening shears or sharp knife.

The leaves can be air-dried where the roots are supposed to be either roasted or cubed to get grinded for storage. They are stored in an airtight glass jar and they usually don’t go for long so they must be used readily.

Usage

Chicory plant is being used quite effortlessly to ensure seeking its medicinal benefits.

  • Tincture - Infuse freshly chopped chicory leaves or roots in grain alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the liquid and place it in a dark and dry place.
  • Tea - Chicory roots are boiled in water for 3 to 5 minutes. After straining the tea, a cinnamon stick can be added to spark the taste and aroma.
  • Decoction - Dried roots are boiled in water and strained to form chicory decoction.
  • Salve - Chicory roots are infused with jojoba oil then strained. The chicory infused oil is mixed with organic beeswax to form salve. To preserve it against microbial contamination, benzoin can be added.
  • Syrup - Roasted chicory roots are rolled to boil with sugar and water to form chicory syrup.
  • Infused oil- Roasted chicory roots are infused with jojoba oil to form chicory infused oil.