How to eat chicory?

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Chicory

The common English names of these closely related plants is the cause of much confusion. Here, chicory is used for the green varieties of Cichorium intybus, while radicchio is used for those that display red colouration.

Both heading and leaf varieties are available and are growing in popularity in Australia. Mesculin (misticanza in Italian) salad typically has a few tired red leaves, which belies the potential contribution of chicory and radicchio to both salads and cooked dishes. Cichorium endiva has two variants, escarole endive (indiva scarola) and curly endive (indiva riccia). Defined by their distinctive taste, the use of these vegetables is increasing in Australia.

The best winter salad I have ever had was at Allsun Farm near Canberra and made from freshly picked radicchio and escarole endive tossed in a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Another classic is radicchio and shaved fennel with an orange juice dressing. Delicious. Try Franchi radicchio rossa di Traviso in a risotto. Fantastic.

These vegetables all display some degree of bitterness which is beneficial to health in that it promotes appetite and the flow of gastric juices which improves internal body function. Campari, a favourite of mine, is an Italian aperitif, and has a distinct bitter taste intended to promote the appetite.

Chicories are deep rooted, unfussy plants.

The first single I ever bought – in 1972 or 73 – was called Son Of The Father by a band called Chicory Tip. I’d seen it on Top Of The Pops – the band were proper platform-heeled, tank top-sporting, chest wig-wearing glam rockers – and I’m pretty sure it was top of the charts for several weeks. Weirdly, though, whenever I mention it nowadays, nobody else seems to have heard of it. And I’ve never heard it played on the radio. Ever.

So, for nostalgia, I have to content myself with, well, eating chicory tips instead. How’s that for a spurious trivia link to this week’s seasonal culinary theme? I know. Terrible. But it felt good to get the Chicory Tip thing off my chest.

So, on to the vegetable, not the band. When I say chicory (aka endive, aka witloof), I mean the pale green-white, tight little missile-shaped leafy vegetable, not the blowsy, tangly, frizzy salad leaves that share its name. There is plenty of confusion here: what we call chicory, the French call endive; what they call chicorée frisée, we call curly endive. The Belgians, with pragmatic Flemish accuracy, call it witloof, or white leaf. I think we should all call it that. The story goes that a Belgian gardener grew it by accident in the 1840s. He was growing chicory roots to add to coffee and found some had sprouted tasty white leaves, a happy accident. Today, chicory is grown in the field, then its roots are harvested, packed in sand and forced in dark sheds (rather like that other bitter queen, rhubarb) to produce those tight little heads which, incidentally, the French call chicons. All clear now?

Much of the chicory in our shops right now is imported from the continent, Holland mainly. But there is a steady UK production, too – one of the biggest farms, in Lincolnshire, is run by a man with the no-nonsense name of Jack Buck. It’s top stuff, too. Look out for home-grown chicory in a grocer’s or farm shop near you.

While much of our winter food is all about yielding, soothing, warming softness and richness, raw chicory packs a welcome, bitter crunch that can shock over-pampered tastebuds out of hibernation. It’s great in salads, dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette perhaps sweetened with a little honey, and tossed with toasted walnuts and chunks of apple or pear. Or try it with slices of orange and some toasted hazelnuts. Because of its shape and texture, it’s a great natural little “bowl” for other foods, such as a pile of dressed crab, say, or a mixture of blue cheese and cream cheese, or even just a tub of corner-shop hummus.

When cooked, chicory loses a little of the bitterness that some people find challenging. For a speedy side dish, try it shredded and stir-fried with that glorious flavour trio of garlic, ginger and chilli, with a little toasted sesame oil trickled over the top at the end. For a hearty winter main dish, wrap blanched chicory in slices of ham, lay in a greased oven dish, dab with a little mustard, smother with a cheesy béchamel and scatter over a few breadcrumbs; then bake it in a hot oven for half an hour. Or braise it slowly in cream and/or stock (see today’s recipe).

I hope you’re now inspired to try pale and interesting chicory, or maybe its vivid, rounder cousin, radicchio, which struts in from Italy like an exotically dressed exchange student. With its garnet-coloured leaves ribbed and veined in brilliant white, this makes a beautiful addition to any salad. But halves or quarters of the tight round heads are also great brushed with olive oil and grilled until slightly charred. Just before serving, trickle over a little more oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar (I love Aspall’s apple balsamic). A few shavings of hard goat’s cheese over the top and you have one of those effortless, seasonal combos that really startles the mouth. Fun, too.

Raddicchio with pancetta and pasta

When I worked at the River Cafe, I must have made hundreds of plates of this flavoursome pasta dish, and the combination of radicchio and pancetta still remains a great favourite. It’s very simple to throw together – just make sure you put the pasta on to boil when you begin preparing the sauce, and they should both be ready at the same time. This combination also makes a delicious, and colourful, risotto. Serves four.

2 medium radicchio heads
100g (around 2 thick slices) smoked pancetta (or bacon)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ 1 small fresh red chilli (depending on strength), finely chopped
½ wine glass red wine
150ml double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Spaghetti or penne
Parmesan, freshly grated (optional)

Wash the radicchio, then coarsely shred as you would a cabbage. Trim the rind off the pancetta, then cut the pancetta into thick matchsticks.

When the pasta goes into its pot of salted, boiling water, start making the sauce. Warm the oil over a medium-high heat in a large frying pan and fry the pancetta for a few minutes, until lightly browned. Throw in the garlic and chilli, cook for just a minute, then pile in the radicchio, stirring continuously so that it sweats and wilts but does not catch and burn – the pan will seem overloaded at first, but the radicchio quickly reduces in volume.

Add the wine, let it bubble for a few minutes until it has almost disappeared entirely, then pour in the cream and simmer to reduce a little, until the sauce is thick and glossy. Season to taste. Spoon the pasta on to warmed plates, top with the sauce and serve straight away.

Chicory gratin

This classic side dish, perfect with a joint of meat or game birds, is based on a Jane Grigson recipe. If you prefer, substitute the intensely flavoured juices from the roasting meats for the cream. Serves four.

4 small heads chicory
1 good pinch sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
30g unsalted butter
100ml double cream
50ml white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp grated parmesan
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Remove a thin slice from the base of each chicory and trim off any less than perfect outer leaves. Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and add the sugar and lemon. Add the chicory and simmer until just tender – about five minutes. Drain, and slice each head in half lengthways.

Over a medium heat, melt the butter in an oven-proof frying pan that’s large enough to take the chicory in a single layer. Gently cook the chicory on both sides until it starts to turn golden – do not allow it to go dark brown or it will taste too bitter. Pour in the cream and wine, simmer for five minutes to reduce a little, then taste and season well. Combine the breadcrumbs and cheese, sprinkle on top, trickle with a little oil and bake for eight to 10 minutes, until golden. Serve at once.

Chicory, walnut and blue vinney salad

If you like, use walnut oil, or half-and-half walnut and vegetable oil, in the dressing. Serves four as a starter.

1 handful shelled walnuts
2 small heads chicory
1 handful watercress, washed, trimmed and roughly torn
About 100g Dorset Blue Vinney, stilton or other blue cheese

For the dressing
1 small garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

First, toast the walnuts. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Spread the nuts out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for eight to 10 minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Using the flat of a large knife, work the garlic and salt into a paste. Whisk together the garlic, mustard and vinegar, then add the oil in a slow trickle, whisking as you go. Set aside.

Cut off the base of each chicory and tear off all the leaves. Wash the leaves, dry, then place in a bowl along with the watercress. Trickle over a tablespoon of dressing and turn over the leaves with your hands, to ensure all the leaves are well coated. Divide between four plates, trickle a little more dressing over the top, scatter the toasted walnuts on top and crumble on the cheese. Serve immediately.

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The Delicious World of Chicory (& How to Cook It)

When you hear the word “chicory,” chances are that your first culinary association is coffee. While chicory-laced coffee can be delicious (particularly when served with beignets !), it’s far from the only way to enjoy chicory.

Photo via Bluprint blog

First, what is chicory?

Chicory actually includes a pretty broad collection of edible leaves, buds and roots.

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Panegyrics of Granovetter

Chicory is a herbaceous plant that’s part of the dandelion family. Chicory has bright blue (occasionally white or pink) flowers. Many types of chicory, and many parts of the plant, are cultivated for culinary use.

Edible chicory

Yes, it’s a flower, but you absolutely can consume chicory. Actually, the leaves, buds and roots are all used in culinary arena. These are the most common types of chicory you’ll encounter in the kitchen:

1. Belgian endive

Pronounced “on-deev,” this elongated bud is characterized by creamy-colored, tightly packed leaves. Belgian endives are grown in darkness, which keeps their color so light. They have a slightly bitter flavor. You can consume them raw or cooked.

2. Curly endive (aka frisée)

Pronounced “N-dive,” curly endive or frisée is more like a lettuce in its shape. Depending on where you encounter it, you may see it referred to as “curly chicory” or simply “chicory.” It has a slightly bitter flavor, and you can consume curly endive raw or cooked.

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member cyclonebill

3. Radicchio

Pronounced “rahd-ick-ee-oh,” it’s also occasionally referred to as “red chicory” or “red endive.” This striking vegetable usually features variegated reddish-purple leaves. It has a bitter and somewhat spicy flavor, and you can eat it raw or cooked.

Photo licensed via Wikimedia Commons

4. Chicory root

If you’re thinking of the stuff used to flavor coffee, this is what you’re thinking of. The chicory root can be baked, roasted, ground and used as an additive or flavoring.

When is chicory in season?

Chicory’s prime season begins in early fall. That means that right now is prime time to enjoy chicory in its many edible forms!

Storing chicories

When talking about buds or leaves, store chicories loosely wrapped in a damp towel, in a slightly breathable plastic bag, in the refrigerator.

Chicory root is most often sold as granules, and should be stored in a cool, dry place in a sealed container.

5 ways to cook chicory

1. Grilled

Grilling chicories can help soften the flavor and bring out a little bit of their natural sweetness to balance out the bitter. Grilled Belgian endive is an incredible and elegant appetizer or side; radicchio is also sturdy enough to stand up to some grilling, and makes a great side dish or addition to a salad.

Check out this post for tips on how to grill vegetables !

2. Pan-fried

Pan-fried chicories can make an excellent addition to your meal. One of my favorite modes of preparation is to cook a few slices of bacon in a skillet, and reserve a tablespoon or so of the fat to quickly sauté some curly endive, just until softened and slightly wilted. Cut the bacon and serve with the cooked curly endive for a truly memorable side salad!

3. Salads

Belgian endive and other leafy chicories tend to have a bitter flavor. Some people love the astringency of the bitter vegetables; for others, it’s a bit much. A good middle ground is incorporating a mix of chicory along with a sweeter lettuce in a salad — enough to give a little “zip” but not so much to overpower.

4. Soups

Since chicory’s astringent flavor becomes more mellow when cooked, it’s an ideal ingredient to include in soups, which will soften its flavor. This recipe features the rich, creamy flavor of white beans, which are contrasted with chicory. A generous sprinkling of Parmesan on top makes it the perfect healthy yet hearty meal!

5. Chicory coffee

Chicory root is most famously used as either a coffee substitute or a coffee additive. To make chicory coffee, you can simply substitute part ground chicory for the coffee in your coffee maker. I’ve done it in a drip coffee maker and a French press coffee maker; both worked fine.

The ratio is up to you, but for newbies, a 1:4 ratio (1 part chicory, 4 parts coffee) is a good starting point. Adjust based on your preference. Some people prefer using chicory instead of coffee, or using a more chicory-heavy blend.

Cooking With Chicory: The Dos And Don’ts

Chicory is an herb related to endive and radicchio. You can use the tops as salad vegetables or you can saute them; you can prepare the roots and use them as an additive for coffee. Chicory root is essential when making New Orleans style coffee, which may be made entirely with the root or using a blend of regular coffee and chicory. The greens are a popular ingredient for classical European cooking and are especially popular in France and England. This herb is versatile but can be tricky to use. When using chicory, follow the tips below for the best results.

Do prepare your chicory root properly if you are going to use it to make coffee.

Good preparation means that you will have to dry and roast your chicory before brewing it for chicory coffee. One way prepare it is to first slice the chicory root into small pieces that you will then dry in the sun or in a food dehydrator. You will want the pieces to be as small as possible to ensure that your coffee grinder will be able to handle them. Next, you want to roast it in a moderately hot oven (about 350 degrees) for a few hours. You can then grind the pieces of root in much the same way that you would grind coffee beans. The next step is to brew your ground chicory in a standard coffee pot or French press.

Do add chicory in a 4:1 ratio when using it to dilute coffee.

This ratio should be your starting point. You can add or decrease the amount of chicory in your blend depending on your preference.

Do add less chicory root when using as a coffee substitute.

Chicory is more water soluble when compared to coffee, which means that it can go a long way.

Do cook chicory greens to make them less bitter.

Cooking mix chicory greens sweeter and mellower, in addition to giving them a softer texture.

Do add chicory root to your baked goods to make them healthier.

Chicory root is rich in a fiber called inulin. Inulin is added to many well-known packaged foods so that they can be sold as high-fiber items. It adds fiber without affecting the food item’s flavor or texture, unlike other fiber sources. Fiber is an important nutrient that can help to regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. You can extract inulin from chicory root simply by heating dried chicory root in water using a microwave. The inulin will precipitate out of the chicory root into the water.

Do halve or quarter the heads of chicory when grilling them.

Grilling softens the outer leaves while leaving the inner leaves crisp. It also gives The Chicory greens a smoky flavor. A light coating with extra virgin olive oil can enhance the flavor and speed up the softening process.

Do chop chicory greens if you plan to steam them.

Chopping shortens the cooking time and ensures that all the leaves have a similar soft consistency.

Don’t drink chicory coffee if what you want is caffeine.

Chicory is caffeine-free despite the fact that when brewed, it can look like very strong coffee. Chicory is used only to lower the cost and caffeine content of coffee without detracting from the flavor, not to add to its stimulating effects.

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What is chicory root fiber? Can it make a brownie good for you?

Chicory, or cichorium intybus, is an herb that grows wild throughout Europe, the United States, and Australia but is also cultivated for culinary use. It’s related to endive and radicchio, two slightly bitter, lettuce-like vegetables often used in salads, as a base for an appetizer, or as a garnish. Once deployed as coffee extender during hard economic times and still popular as such in New Orleans (its neutral taste and similar color and texture make it a perfect filler), chicory root has quite a different purpose in modern-day food science.

Chicory root is made up of 40 percent inulin, which is an oligosaccharide (a fancy name for carbohydrate fiber). Inulin is found naturally in many foods we commonly eat — including bananas, onions, and wheat — but chicory’s high inulin concentration make it a favorite for food manufacturers to bulk up the fiber in packaged foods. Have you ever wondered how brownies, cookies, or chocolate-chip granola bars can have more fiber than a cup of vegetables? That, friends, is some chicory root–related food-science magic. Because of the known health benefits of fiber, many food manufacturers started to add chicory root or inulin to packaged foods in order to boost the fiber content — and the perceived health benefits of their products.

Fiber, found naturally in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is a powerful nutrient. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble, and both play important roles in promoting health. Soluble fiber (the primary type in chicory root) slows digestion, helps eliminate cholesterol from our bodies, and may help regulate blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber is not digestible, but it promotes regular bowel movements and may even play a role in weight control by helping us to feel full longer. Most high-fiber foods contribute some of both types, and diets high in fiber are linked to lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

The inulin in chicory root fiber is also a prebiotic, or a fiber that feeds and promotes the growth of healthy probiotic bacteria in our guts. Prebiotic fibers are also found in fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, legumes, soybeans, and wheat. Consuming foods with natural prebiotics like inulin promotes good gut health, and some studies suggest prebiotic additives like inulin from chicory root fiber may improve digestion.

So why not load up on chicory root? While some research suggests that chicory root fiber may help to regulate digestion, blood sugars, and cholesterol, adding it to processed foods is not likely as beneficial as getting your fiber from whole fruits and vegetables. Also, as with most things in life, you can have too much of a good thing. Many people who consume foods with added fibers such as inulin complain of gas, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea or constipation.

Sorry to rain on your parade, but just because a packaged food has added fiber, it does not mean that the processed food is healthier. Ice cream is still ice cream even with “good” filler, so you’re better off obtaining fiber and other nutrients from their natural sources — plants.

At Bon Appétit, we know there’s a lot on your plate that you worry about. That’s why we have a team of registered dietitian nutritionists ready to answer your nutrition questions about which food choices will help you avoid unwanted pounds, work or study (and sleep!) better, and form long-lasting healthy eating habits. Email your questions and feedback to [email protected]

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Most likely, you’ve heard about probiotics. Those healthy microorganism-rich foods and supplements that keep your gut bacteria teaming and happy. Yet, have you heard of prebiotics? These non-digestible components of your food find their way through the small intestine, into the large colon, and are fermented into incredibly nutritious gut bacteria feed. While many foods contain prebiotic elements, specifically fiber, there is one that outranks all the rest: chicory root. This prebiotic powerhouse is a great addition to any plant-based balanced diet!

What are Prebiotics?

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Let’s back up a moment and take a look at prebiotics.

Prebiotics are high-fiber food products “that act as food for human microflora,” also referred to as microbiota or healthy bacteria within the body. While probiotics are used to keep gut microbiota healthy, prebiotics are generally used “with the intention of improving the balance of these microorganisms.” Naturally sourced prebiotic components are found in “whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans and artichokes,” but, in these health-conscious times, prebiotics can also be found in non-GMO, organic, and vegetarian supplement form, such as this NatureWise 450 Billion Max Prebiotic for Men and Women.

Yet, if you’re looking to get some natural prebiotic in your diet, look no further than chicory root!

What is Chicory Root

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Chicory root fiber is the source of prebiotic power. Yet, where does it come from? Simple enough, a chicory plant. The chicory plant is a beautiful perennial with bright blue flowers and is part of the dandelion family. It is native to Europe, but has also been naturalized to North America, Australia, and China. Along with being a fiber-rich resource and leafy green for salads, chicory root is also baked and then ground down, the resulting substance used as a coffee substitute and food additive.

Yet, the true prebiotic benefits come from a component of chicory root called inulin. This chicory root extract is high in fiber and has been widely used in sweeteners, gluten-free breads, as an additive in high-fiber processed foods, in probiotic and digestive supplements, and is used for its creamy texture in foods such as ice cream and yogurt. Yet, inulin also “occurs naturally in some veggies such as artichokes, onions, and garlic.”

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Health Benefits of Prebiotic Inulin Sourced from Chicory Root

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Fiber is a well-recognized key component to a healthy and balanced diet. Not only does fiber feed your gut bacteria, but it is also known to ease digestive issues and help maintain a healthy weight. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of fiber-rich inulin.

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Improves Gut Health

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While this is expected from a prebiotic, how and why does inulin keep your gut healthy?

It all comes down to time, absorption, and fermentation. Inulin is made of simple sugars linked together to create a fructan, which means this substance is “a non-digestible prebiotic, which allows it to pass through humans’ small and large intestines unabsorbed.” Given the length of time inulin has to pass through the digestive system undisturbed, it’s able to ferment. This fermented compound “feeds the healthy intestinal microflora (bacterial organisms, including Bifidobacterium) that populate the gut.”

Aids in Sugar Detox

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Consumption of sugar, especially highly-processed high fructose corn syrup and table sugar, has been linked to weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as acne, depression, and even an increase in cellular aging. Therefore, any technique employed to help reduce your consumption of sugar is important.

Chicory root is a great natural and fiber-rich substitute for that table sugar in your pantry. The chicory plant “has chemical similarities to the sugar beet plant that’s often used to derive sugar. While that sweet flavor may not be as strong as the sugar you’re used to, it’s a great way to help you slowly detox. Try supplementing chicory root in recipes that ask for sugar and flour. Not only will you avoid sugar, but it will also boost your fiber intake without adding unwanted calories.

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Boosts Calcium Absorption

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One of the many benefits of inulin is it’s stimulating effects on intestinal bacteria. Studies have shown that inulin “helps the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria that are needed for various metabolic functions.” This provides a trickle-down effect within the body: healthy gut and intestinal bacteria help the body improve its ability to absorb electrolytes, such a calcium. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2005 showing that inulin “significantly increased calcium enough to enhance bone mineralization during pubertal growth.”

Decreased Metabolic Syndrome Risk

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A diet that helps regulate the secretion of insulin is incredibly important. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that “regulates many metabolic processes that provide cells with needed energy.” When you consume inulin-rich chicory root, insulin is not secreted. Therefore, your blood sugar doesn’t go up. Due to inulin’s blood sugar stabilizing characteristics, chicory root is “potentially helpful in managing metabolic syndrome risk factors and blood sugar-related illnesses,” such as diabetes.

Integrating Chicory Root into a Plant-Based Diet

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Alright, now you know the positive effects of this plant-based food, yet how do you integrate it into your diet?

For those of us who are too busy to cook every day, you may want to consider using powder inulin, such as this LC Foods All Natural Inulin Fiber (Chicory Root), or even the granule form of inulin, such as this one pound package of Frontier Bulk Chicory Root Granules. The powder and granules can be added to smoothies, such as this Vanilla Spiced Breakfast Smoothie, protein shakes, such as this High-Protein Vanilla and Cashew Smoothie, or even supplemented for flour or sugar in recipes, such as in this Triple Decker Carrot Cake.

Yet, inulin naturally occurs in other foods besides chicory root including sugar beets, leeks, asparagus, onion, garlic, dandelion root, bananas, and even wheat. Experiment with a combination of these veggies along with a dash of chicory root powder and you’ve got a prebiotic strong meal!

Get started with your experimentations by downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

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Better Than Coffee (Chicory Latte)

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I created this drink because I had to stop drinking coffee (full article here: 11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Hormones). I discovered that my body does not metabolize coffee well and the result was very visible: I was impatient and even mean. It sucks when the one person you love the most (my partner, Brad) is on the receiving end of your moods. I had to own it and this is how I threw myself into looking for tasty, satisfying and healthy alternatives.

Lattes can be so versatile. You can play with so many different teas, coffees, coffee substitutes (like dandelion root or chicory root), fats like coconut butter, coconut oil, coconut milk, butter (if you tolerate dairy) or ghee. It allows for so much of creativity and exploration of your own taste bud preferences.

In this recipe I’m using roasted chicory root and roasted dandelion. You can get it online (anything you can’t get on Amazon?) and pick the organic version. If you have been to New Orleans, you know chicory coffee.

Even though I called the recipe”coffee,” this drink does not contain caffeine. In fact, both dandelion and chicory have have been used medicinally in Western herbalism for centuries.

Dandelion root is known to support the liver function and chicory root is rich in inulin which is a “prebiotic” for the good bacteria to feed on. Chicory is also known to stimulate bile production which facilities our liver’s detoxification process – keeping our hormones in check. I wrote a full article about the surprising connection between the liver and our hormones.

I hope you enjoy this drink as much as I love developing recipes that not only taste great but can be our medicine, too.

Get more delicious healing recipes and learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in Cooking for Hormone Balance.

Better Than Coffee (Chicory Latte) Prep time 2 mins Cook time 12 mins Total time 14 mins Equipment: blender, grater Author: Magdalena Wszelaki Serves: 2 Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon roasted chicory root (source)
  • 1 tablespoon roasted dandelion root (source)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, coconut butter or butter (if tolerated)
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1 scoop collagen (source)
  • fresh nutmeg (nut or powder)

How To Make

  1. Place chicory and dandelion root in a cooking pot and cover with water.
  2. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain and transfer to the blender, then add the ghee, collagen, and the dates. Blend for 1 minute.
  5. Grate some fresh nutmeg and enjoy.

3.5.3251Photo by Holly A. Heyser

For a time, my favorite coffee was New Orleans style, where the coffee is cut with roasted, ground chicory root. Chicory coffee is smooth, a little more acidic than normal coffee, with a taste and aroma similar to a mocha — and it makes a drink darker than the inside of a cow.

I used to Ozark it up even more by drinking it black, sweetened with molasses, not sugar. Definitely a manly drink, and probably the reason I have so much hair on my chest. I imagined lumberjacks or pioneers drinking this between cutting wood or fording wild rivers.

I was not in the habit of doing either, so I ultimately switched back to straight coffee. Actually I stopped because the canned chicory coffee I’d been buying grew pretty grim on my tastebuds over time; stale and dusty tasting. I never found anyone who made a premium version, so I left chicory coffee by the wayside.

I knew I could make my own by digging up the raggedy sailors — chicory is that weedy azure-blue flower that grows on a roadside near you. But I’d never bothered with it, as you need to dig in fall, and I only really notice this plant in summer when it’s flowering, or in early spring when I eat the greens.

But then I bought some “root chicory” seeds and planted them. Now I had absolutely no intention of making chicory coffee from them. I have a thing for crazy root vegetables, and it is my contention that if more locovores living in Northern climates grew a wider variety of roots, their winter menus would be far more interesting. I wanted to test this root out as a vegetable, so I planted it in my root bed next to the scorzonera I experimented with this year.

And then, as typically happens, life got in the way. I looked up and it was May already — while the chicory roots had not yet sent up flower stalks (except for one), they would be far too bitter and “hot” to eat as a veggie. Damn.

What to do with these things? I pulled one and was astounded at how large it was: A good 30 inches, with a base about two inches across. Christ, that’s a big root. And then I remembered my lumberjack coffee. But just how do you make chicory coffee?

I’d read a few sets of instructions that say just wash and dry the roots, then roast them in a moderate oven until “ready,” then break into pieces and grind into coffee-like grounds. I knew intuitively that this was false. I could not imagine breaking a root that was two inches broad into pieces small enough to not kill my grinder.

Photo by Hank Shaw

Other sets of instructions, mostly for making dandelion coffee (basically the same thing), call for slicing the roots into thin discs, then drying them, then roasting them, and then grinding them. This sounded more sane.

So I began slicing up the 20-or so large chicory roots I’d managed to pull. I ate a few raw, and they weren’t terrible: If something can manage to be sweet and bitter at the same time, these roots achieved that feat.

When I was doing this, it was 104°F outside. Not ideal oven drying weather, but perfect weather to dry things outside. And my “drying rack” of choice is the hood of my pickup. So I sat these sliced roots out in the sun, and they dried nicely in two days.

When it came time to roast the chicory, I found even more misleading instructions on the internet; yes, I know — misleading information on the internet?! Heavens! Everyone seems to say roast dandelion or chicory root in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Uh, yeah. You then have slightly warmer dried chicory roots. Nope, instead of 15 minutes, try 90 minutes, or even two hours. I might try 2 to 3 hours at a lower temperature next time.

Photo by Hank Shaw

I’d just like to say that even if you have no intention of actually drinking chicory coffee, it is worth roasting the roots this way. The whole house smelled wonderfully malty, chocolatey, warm. So lovely.

I let the roots cool overnight and ground them. Unfortunately they don’t seem to grind evenly, so I have powder mixed with chunks. But I use a press pot for my coffee, whose filter is enough to strain it all out.

I decided to brew myself a straight cup of chicory coffee. I put about a 1/4 cup into my press pot, the same amount I use for coffee, boiled some water and steeped the inky brew for about 5 to 8 minutes. I drank it black, with sugar.

Straight chicory coffee is some powerful stuff. it tastes like it is loaded with caffeine, but it isn’t. It looks a lot like motor oil, has that malty-chocolate aroma, a brighter acidity than coffee and a flavor I really am having trouble describing as other than with the cliche “earthy.” Guess that’s what I get for roasting a root.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is probably the easiest of nearly all wild “weeds” to identify. Only daisies and dandelions might be simpler to safely identify for a novice wildcrafter. Not only are the flowers quite distinctive on a chicory plant, but it has no toxic look-alikes, as Queen Anne’s Lace and so many other plants do.

For centuries, the chicory plant has been used as both a coffee substitute and additive. This beautiful weed has also been heralded for its potential healing properties. When taking as a natural herbal remedy, chicory is typically consumed as either a coffee or a tea.

Chicory Health Benefits

The potential health benefits of consuming chicory or using it topically have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration – FDA. Products made from chicory are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Because the taproot of the chicory plant is bitter, it may boast more health benefits than other parts of the plant – especially where inulin is concerned. Inulin may help with appetite management, keeping blood sugar levels in proper balance, help with digestion, and detox the body.

Most edible and medicinal recipes that include chicory in the ingredients call for the roasted taproot. The exposure to heat during the roasting process can reduce the amount of inulin in contains.

Bitter plants and herbs often tend to have both a cooling and drying impact on the body, which may be beneficial in treating liver, stagnant lymph, congestion, and blood issues.

How to Identify Chicory When Foraging

Chicory is a perennial wild plant. It reproduces by scattering its seeds each fall so new plants can grow the following year. It blooms typically from July through the middle of October in most environments. Chicory plants generally grow between two to five feet tall.

The beautiful and dainty flowers on chicory plants are blue to purple in shade most of the time, but some varieties boast pink or white flowers.

Chicory plants are “cousins” to dandelions, but the petals on the flowers are distinctly different, and no version of the plant comes in a yellow shade. The main shared characteristic between the two beneficial weeds is the long taproot each possesses.

Flowers on a chicory plant both open and close on a daily basis. In the early morning hours the flower heads open up with the sun, but around 10 am to noon, as the sun gets more intense, the flowers close.

Each daily only some of the flowers open, it is as if the plant is taking turns both garnering sunshine and protecting itself from the heat.

  • Chicory plants begin as a rosette in the early spring. The basal leaves on the rosette area toothed shaped.
  • As the growing season moves along, a leafless and sturdy stem grows from the rosette.
  • Just the bottom portion of the is hairy, the rest of the stem is free from any coloration or hair.
  • The leaves on a chicory plant are small and scattered sparsely along the stalks.
  • When the plants are young, the leaves are largely considered to be either oval or egg shaped.
  • Young leaves are a more pale shade of green than they are as they strive to reach maturity, and have a somewhat shiny texture.
  • Chicory plants have a bush shape to some degree. Each plant boasts multiple thin branches. If you harvested a chicory plant, you would essentially be holding an entire bouquet in your hand.
  • Stalks on chicory plants range in size from one to one and a half inches in diameter as they widen near the flower head.
  • Axils begin developing on the leaves during the mid-summer.
  • The ground level leaves on chicory plants are approximately 3 to 6 inches long.
  • The tiny plant leaves appear to alternate as your eye travels up and down the stem. They are only one inch long, typically.
  • Taproots on chicory hold a milky liquid that has a distinctly bitter taste and it commonly referred to as the plant’s juice. The root on domesticated chicory plants are much thinner than those on wild plants.
  • Each chicory plant flower head can house as many as 20 petals.
  • The ends of the flower petals boast a fringed look, much like that on the end of a scarf.
  • Chicory plant leaves are flat and oblong in shape. Roughly 3,000 seeds exist on every plant.

Where to Forage for Chicory Plants

Chicory is not very picky about the soil that it lives in. On our 56-acre rural homestead we have a copious amount of plants growing in primarily clay soil – and thriving. You will almost always discover wild chicory plants growing in full sun areas, often on the edges of livestock pastures, or in roadside ditches.

Chicory does not mind growing in rocky soil or exceptionally thick and tough dirt. They do prefer lime rich soil, especially that which also boasts a pH balance of about 5.8 to 6.5.

This wild plant is exceptionally cold hardy, and is found or cultivated in nearly all 50 states.

Chicory Foraging Tips

Always make certain that chicory plants (and any plant) harvested anywhere but your own property will not get you in trouble for trespassing, and have not been exposed to chemical herbicides or pesticides.

A good rule of thumb is never to forage for wild edibles or medicinals any closer than 200 feet from a roadway due to the likelihood that the local municipality has sprayed that right of way area to kill weeds.

Follow proper sustainable practices when foraging. If you are harvesting the wild chicory for the root before it has gone to seed, removing the entire plant will ensure that none will grow back in the spot the following year.

Although it is difficult to preserve the longevity of a foraged chicory plant when harvesting the entire thing for the taproot, it can be possible.

Only harvest the chicory plant after it has gone to seed. This often foraged plant spreads its seeds both easily and quickly in the fall.

When foraging chicory, only harvest about one-third of the stand.

Next, replant the top of the root crown back into the soil to help increase the chances that it can disperse any remaining seeds, and come back again next year. All that may be needed for chicory to continue growing is a tiny bit of both the taproot and crown tip to still be attached.

How to Harvest Chicory Plants

Roots and Stems

Harvesting of the stems and roots of chicory plants should be undertaken during either the spring when they are young or in the fall when the taproots are fully mature. The heat from the summer sun can cause a bitter taste when roots are harvested at this time.

Flowers

Harvest flowers from chicory plants during the late summer to early weeks of fall to catch the flower heads when they are in full bloom.

Leaves

It is best to harvest leaves from the plant when they are young because raw leaves develop a far more bitter taste as they mature.

Seeds

If you want to harvest seeds from a chicory plant to preserve for the next growing season, do so during the latter days of summer or at the very latest, during the early weeks of fall. By the middle of October the plant goes to seed and begins to naturally disperse the seeds.

When foraging chicory for the seeds, use tweezers to scoop out the ones that gather in tiny clusters between the leaves in pods. Seeds from a chicory plant, gather them in small clusters from in between leaf bunches.

To harvest the taproot, start digging about four to five inches from the center of the chicory plant to ensure you are not going to disturb the taproot during the harvesting process.

If you nick the root with the shovel or garden trowel, it will be more difficult to preserve and more debris will get into the root that will need to be gently scrubbed away.

Preserving the Foraged Chicory Plant

Cleaning the taproot of a chicory plant takes at least five minutes to clean after soaking it for at least that long in lukewarm water.

To roast chicory root to make coffee or tea, chop it up into 1 inch bits after cutting it free at the crown area which separates it from the plant stem. Next, place the root bits on an ungreased baking sheet and place them in a 170 degree F (76 C) oven for approximately 5 to 7 hours – or in a dehydrator on the herbs and nut setting for a similar amount of time.

A thoroughly dried root will no longer be pliable and feel coarse and stiff to the touch.

Do not freeze either the stems or the leaves from the plants because this can vastly alter their flavor, and cause them to lose vital nutrients. It is far better to dehydrate and then powder these parts to preserve them for future use. Both the leaves and the stems can be washed in cold water and then stored in the refrigerator for approximately 10 days.

To preserve the entire foraged chicory plant, hang dry them in a cool, dry place that does not garner direct sunlight just as you would herbs. The drying area must be ventilated well to prevent the chicory plant from being exposed to too much moisture that can cause it to mold and mildew.

The attractive and dainty chicory flowers can also be dried in an oven, dehydrator, or microwave to preserve them for use in wreaths and other crafts.

Chicory is an easy plant to forage, harvest, and preserve. Not only is the plant easy to identify for novice wildcrafters, but it also does not require hiking over any rugged terrain, or to go deep into the woods and weeds to locate.

While the plants do not actually grow in a patch, if you find one there are likely at least 5 or 6 more growing within a stone’s throw of your first exciting discovery. And if you can’t find any chicory at all, you can always grow it on your own – it’s super easy!

Herb to Know: Chicory

Just about any visitor to New Orleans has tasted an obligatory cup of the city’s signature blend of coffee and chicory. But chicory’s varieties and uses extend far beyond a slow Sunday brunch at Café du Monde. Chicory, also known as succory, blue-sailors and ragged-sailors, is a hardy perennial native to Eurasia but was transplanted and now grows naturally throughout North America, south to Florida and west to California. It is common along roadsides and in other wild, untamed areas, especially in limestone soils. All species in the genus Cichorium are native to Eurasia. The words chicory, succory, Cichorium and intybus are all derived from Greek or Latin names for the herb.

Chicory resembles dandelion in its deep taproot and rosette of toothed basal leaves; unlike dandelion, it puts up a stiff, hairy flower stalk clothed sparsely with small, clasping leaves. Stalks may grow 2 to 5 feet tall and branch several times. Stalkless flower heads 1 1/2 inches wide form singly or in twos or threes in the axils of the stem leaves in midsummer. They are clear blue (or, rarely, pink or white) and consist of 16 to 20 strap-like, toothed ray flowers. Blossoms are primarily bee-pollinated and open early in the morning and close about five hours later. Linnaeus, observing this tendency, planted chicory in his floral clock in Uppsala, Sweden. (There, the flowers opened at 5 a.m. and closed at 10 a.m.) Flowers may stay open longer on cloudy days. The herbalist Mrs. C.F. Leyel has observed that “the lovely blue color of the petals is changed into a brilliant red by the acid of ants, if placed on an ant-hill.” The plant tops make a dyestuff that produces a variety of colorfast yellows and greens, depending on the mordant used. In the language of flowers, chicory symbolizes frugality.

Medicinal Uses For Chicory

For at least 5,000 years, people have cultivated chicory for its medicinal benefits. According to the “doctrine of signatures” (a renaissance theory that a plant’s appearance indicates its healing properties) the milky sap of chicory demonstrated its efficacy in promoting milk flow in nursing mothers, or perhaps diminishing it if it were too abundant; it seems to have been prescribed for both conditions. The blue of the blossoms and their tendency to close as if in sleep at noon (in England) suggested the plant’s use in treating inflamed eyes. The bruised leaves have been poulticed on swellings. Root extracts have been used as a diuretic and laxative, and to treat fevers and jaundice. The second-century physician Galen called chicory a “friend of the liver,” and contemporary research has shown that it can increase the flow of bile, which could be helpful in treating gallstones. Laboratory research also has shown root extracts to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and slightly sedative. They also slow and weaken the pulse and lower blood sugar. Leaf extracts have similar, though weaker, effects.

Chicory: A Colonial Crop

Chicory came early to the United States with the colonists as a medicinal herb, but Thomas Jefferson and others grew it as a forage crop. Because it doesn’t dry well, it was usually cut and fed green to horses, cattle, sheep, poultry and rabbits.

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A compound called maltol (3-hydroxyl-2-methyl-4-pyrone) from chicory (as well as larch bark, pine needles and roasted malt) is used in baked goods to intensify the flavor of sugar 30-to-300-fold.

The appreciation for chicory as a culinary herb dates back at least to Roman times, and growers over the years have developed dozens of improved cultivars that scarcely resemble the scrawny roadside weed. These include heading chicories such as radicchio; loose-leaf chicory; root chicory, grown either for cooking like parsnips or for roasting to make a coffee substitute; and witloof, or Belgian endive, the roots of which are forced to produce elongated shoots called chicons. (The vegetable known as endive — not to be confused with Belgian endive — belongs to the annual or biennial C. endivia and is cultivated for its leaves. Curly-leaved forms are called frisée, while broad-leaved forms are known as escarole or Batavian endive.)

Forcing roots, usually done indoors in the dark, produces tops that are more tender and less bitter than those grown outdoors would be. This technique prolongs the gardening season in areas with cold winters. Storage temperatures can be manipulated to keep new chicons coming for several months.

Chicory is a good source of folic acid, necessary for the formation and maturation of red blood cells and in the synthesis of DNA; potassium, which is required for the contraction of skeletal and heart muscle and for the transmission of nerve impulses; and vitamin A. One of the traditional bitter herbs of Passover, it is eaten as a spring tonic in many cultures.

Today, with the plethora of cultivated varieties available, wild chicory is seldom seen in the kitchen, but wild-foods enthusiasts who know how to prepare it enjoy its lively flavor in several forms. The young basal leaves taste almost identical to dandelion greens. The white underground parts of the earliest leaves are good in salad or cooked as a potherb. Later leaves are apt to be bitter, but simmering them with several changes of water will decrease the bitterness. You also may cover the basal leaves with a flowerpot to blanch them. When cooked, the roots taste like parsnips, but they are almost too skinny to bother with. Instead of boiling them, however, you can scrub them and roast them slowly until brittle and dark brown inside. Grind and brew them like coffee or blend with regular coffee. The resulting beverage tastes much like coffee but doesn’t contain caffeine.

Healthy and Hearty to Grow

The sight of wild chicory growing in cracks in the pavement suggests that it will grow just about anywhere. Cultivated forms appreciate well-prepared, rich garden soil. They grow best in cool weather; where winters are mild, you can sow seed of some varieties in the fall for a spring harvest. Check the catalog or packet instructions for the best time to plant in your area. Chicory grown for forcing may be planted in early summer. In fall, cut the tops off, dig the roots and pack them in boxes of moist sand or peat. Hold them at 35 to 40 degrees until ready to force, then raise the temperature to 50 to 60 degrees. Keep them in darkness under flowerpots or opaque plastic and slice off the chicons when they are about 6 inches long. The roots may yield a second or even a third crop. Pests and disesase are not a problem.

Sources

• Companion Plants
7247 N. Coolville Ridge Rd.
Athens, OH 45701
(740) 592-4643
www.companionplants.com

• Cook’s Garden
P.O. Box 1889
Southampton, PA 18966
(800) 457-9703
www.cooksgarden.com

• Eden Organic Nursery
P.O. Box 4604
Hallandale, FL 33008
(954) 455-0229
www.eonseed.com

• Misty Ridge Herb Farm, Inc.
7350 W. 14 Rd.
Mesick, MI 49668
(231) 885-2290
www.herbplantsonline.com

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• Mountain Rose Herbs
P.O. Box 50220
Eugene, OR 97405
(800) 879-3337
www.mountainroseherbs.com

• Richter’s
357 Hwy. 47
Goodwood, ON L0C 1A0
Canada
(905) 640-6677
www.richters.com

• Stokes Seeds
P.O. Box 548
Buffalo, NY 14240
(800) 396-9238
www.stokeseeds.com

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