Chicory A Versatile Herb
I have a friend who is interested in Chicory and we have talked about it a few times. But recently she requested that I do some research on it. What I found surprised me.
Its sky-blue flowers have always fascinated me from childhood. And of course, growing up with an Herbalist mother, I knew that its roots were often roasted and used as a coffee substitute, especially popular in New Orleans. Its popularity stemmed from the 1800’s in France, when it began to be mixed with coffee because of a coffee shortage. That way, the coffee could be stretched out, and it also cut the caffeine. It’s popularity spread from there. Today it is used as a caffeine-free drink very similar to coffee with a nutty flavor.
Who would’ve guessed it was from the dandelion family and is related as well to endive and radicchio? Like the dandelion, it too has a wealth-load of vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA FoodData Cental, chicory is a great source of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron-folic acid and potassium as well as vitamin A, B6, C, E, and K. The leaves, roots and buds are all used beneficially health-wise because they are so packed with phytochemicals. And some cancer studies have shown that Chicory extract is capable of shrinking tumors.
To eat the leaves fresh, toss them in a salad and drizzle with a vinaigrette or stir-fry them. Or you can make a saute. This recipe originally appeared in Martha Stewart Living March 2002:
This is a quick and delicious side dish for any season, since chicory is available year-round. Radicchio, a red-leaf chicory, adds a contrasting bitter note as well as a splash of color.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 head radicchio (about 10 ounces), trimmed and sliced into ½-inch pieces
- 1 bunch chicory (about 1 ½ pounds), trimmed and roughly chopped
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add anchovies and cook 1 minute. Add radicchio and chicory; saute until slightly wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving platter, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
I’m going to enjoy a summer salad this week and try adding Chicory to it. It will bring an interesting note to my regular salads. Chicory is certainly versatile. You can use the flowers/buds, leaves and root. And I have plenty of it growing in my field right now.