Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Growing along roadsides and waste areas, Chicory adds a bright blue pop to the vacant green areas. Yes, it's another one of those non-native invasive plants (they do so well growing in the worst of places). And with most of these plants, it comes with a laundry list of things it can be used for.
The leaves and roots are edible, the flower is edible too but is claimed to be quite bitter. Leaves should be blanched before consumed.
The roots, now this is where it gets interesting, you've probably consumed Chicory already without knowing it!
Chicory has been used as far back as 1000 years ago in Ancient Egypt as a medicine for everything from gout to stomachache to cancer.
It was brought into the spotlight once again in the 1800s when a Napoleon ruled France could not get coffee imports, so the chicory root, dried and roasted made for an excellent coffee substitute and to extend the remaining coffee - flavor wise that is, it contains no caffeine.
It was then brought to Louisiana and is still used in some cafes. Today is is still used as a caffeine free substitute for coffee as well as flavoring in beers to give a 'hearty earthy' taste.
Folklore surrounds this plant supposing it has magical qualities, including that of invisibility. It has been said that the chicory could be used to open a locked chest, but only on St. James's Day - July 25th (yep that's today!). This method involved holding a gold knife and chicory leaves against the lock, but only in total silence - pain or death would follow if a word was spoken.
Early American settlers would carry a piece of chicory for good luck.
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Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.