You have probably seen it all over the place and never gave it a second thought. Chicory grows wild along roadsides and in fields all over the country. Albeit pretty, it is considered a weed. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
I am sort of in the “If it’s green let it grow” camp. I am okay with weeds all over the lawn. I don’t need that perfect illusion of civilization where we have to control Nature itself. I find all plants fascinating. So when I found the tons of chicory plants all over our fields, I had to find out what I could do with it.
Turns out there is quite a lot.
The most common use for chicory is to dig the roots in the fall, scrub, slice and roast them, grind them up and use them as a coffee substitute. No, it does not taste like coffee exactly. But it is a reasonable facsimile, unless you really need that caffeine because chicory has none.
A lot of people don’t want to give up their coffee, me being among them. However, consider this. Even if you are smart enough to stock up on coffee (say, in preparation for a SHTF scenario), you can use chicory to make it last even longer. Coffee isn’t cheap, folks. So why not stretch it if you can? After all, chicory is free.
This is one of my plans for this year. I want to dig up some roots and blend it in with our coffee to see if anyone notices (or cares) about the difference. We drink a lot of coffee here. My son can polish off a pot all by himself in the morning. So if I can take advantage of what Nature provides us here on the homestead, conserve our funds and make the coffee last longer, why wouldn’t I?
While I think chicory coffee alone is a great reason to harvest chicory, it is also good for other things.
Almost the entire plant is edible in one form or another. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads. Older leaves can be eaten as well, but will require a couple of water changes to get rid of the bitter taste. The flowers are also edible. You can toss them in salads or freeze them into ice cubes to make your drinks pretty.
Chicory leaves have vitamins A, B, C, E and K as well as potassium, folic acid, calcium, copper, zinc, phosphorous and magnesium. It has been used medicinally as a detoxifier and there is also evidence that it is useful in controlling worms in livestock, so if you have a lot, feed it to your animals.
When chicory plants start to grow, the resemble a dandelion. The leaves are almost identical. Don’t worry about mixing them up though. If you pick dandelion leaves instead as they are edible as well.
I am a little annoyed that I had to use a stock image for this post because I know I took pictures of the chicory last year, but I can’t find them. So, I will have to add new images this year as it starts to grow.
Do you use chicory?