Tuesday, July 19, 2011
One of the plants I really miss after moving to NC is Chicory. Chicory was very common where I used to live, but I had never seen even one in the years I have been living in NC.
At my last job, I had to spend time walking dogs in the parking lot surrounding the Vets office where I worked. On the side of the building coming up out of a crack in the asphalt was a plant that I watched , over time, get really huge over the weeks since I discovered it. For some reason, probably because it had been so long since I had seen one, I didn't recognize it right away. Than one day, after a long weekend, while driving into the parking lot, the plant was in full bloom! At this point I recognized it right away, it was the first Chicory plant I had seen since I moved here. I was very excited to say the least, but I also couldn't believe I didn't recognize it sooner. One day I came in early to do some tree trimming etc. around the building and one of the things I was supposed to do was to clean up the parking lot, so, I brought a pick to work with me to try to dig it out. It wasn't easy as the plants roots were under the asphalt and they were larger than the crack I was working in. Basically I butchered the poor plant and was afraid it was hopeless, not to mention the weather was really hot and transplanting a plant in flower is the worst time to do so. I cut the plant way back, placed what was left of the roots in a bucket of water, and transported it home. If there was going to be any chance of this plant surviving I knew I had to keep it out of the hot Sun and keep it well watered.
The plant withered badly and I was afraid it was no use, but I kept watering it anyway. In a week or so the plant seemed to perk up a bit, than after about two weeks I started to see new growth! When it looked like it was doing well I transplanted it into my Medicinal Herb garden. Unfortunately, it was really hot, and though I shaded it as best as I could it still took a bad hit from being transplanted again, at the worst time of the year to transplant something. Persistent watering and shading helped and as you can see from the photo, the plant is in bloom again! I will leave it alone till late fall than find a permanent home for it and hope it multiplies to many plants over the years.
I have only used Chicory as an edible plant though it is quite the medicinal plant also. The leaves are succulent in the spring and are good in salads and as a potherb. It is a bit bitter like Dandelion, so it's not everyones favorite, but it is a nutritious plant and is worth getting used too. The flowers are also edible and can be used as you would any other flower in salads or fritters etc.
The most famous part of the plant is the root. You may have heard of Chicory coffee, something you can still buy in health and other stores. Chicory root is famous as a coffee substitute or additive. The large tap root is cleaned dried and cut lengthwise, than roasted in an oven or next to a fire until the desired brown color is reached. This is ground in a coffee grinder and added to real coffee to stretch its quantity so it lasts longer. It can also be roasted and used as a 'coffee' substitute by it self, though it tastes nothing like coffee, it is really good for you.
Because I dug this plant out of a parking lot and the roots lived under asphalt, it is not usable due to any toxins it may have accumulated over the years. What I am hoping for is that this plant to be the mother plant for many others as I will collect the seeds and plant them hoping I get a viable stand of Chicory somewhere down the road.
Posted by Alan at 7:22 PM