Cichorium intybus – chicory

A tough and long-lasting plant – it’s one of the few flowers still going strong in the heat and dry weather (apologies to any reader in northern Europe who may have forgotten what that’s like) – it flowers from May (when I took this photo) through to August.  And I’m still going too – apologies also for the gap in posts which has been longer than I meant, due to priority given to work finishing a new bathroom.

At present these plants are usually seen standing proud up to a metre tall – all stem, bearing a few finely-lobed leaves and these lovely flowers. It’s hard to associate them with chicory or the closely related, and very similar endive.  Both have thick tap roots, which is why they can survive the dryness (sorry, mentioned it again) surmounted by a rosette of bitter leaves which can go in salads.  I have grown endive – you have to cut the leaves off when the root is good and thick,and earth them up to get  the fat, yellow-leafed new buds.  One of the prettiest salad flowers, and I guess common in the wild as an escapee from cultivation.

It was originally a native plant of Egypt, introduced to cultivation in Europe in the 15th century, when the Arabic kehsher had been transformed into the Latin cichoreum and became the French chicoree.  Among several descriptive names in Occitan, there is l’arrucat, meaning ‘pressed together’, presumably from the leaf buds which, my Oc dictionary informs me, ‘are eaten as a salad in Narbonne’.  Maybe a whiff of Occitan snobbery there, since it’s also called engraissa porc – fit for fattening pigs.  Using the word ‘pig’ in a plant name is not generally positive –  the use of animals in plant names is a topic I’ve pencilled in for sometime.

My first thought for some music – given the plant name – was Chick Corea, but I’ll save that for later and go with a song title that was obvious when I saw the picture.  It’s played by Stephane Grappelli and Martin Taylor – and they’ve even got the right stage lighting.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Cichorium intybus – chicory

  1. For my money the prettiest ‘wild’ flower. The roadsides around here are full of wild chicory flowering through the high Summer.

    • Glad to get your comment, not least because your blog looks so interesting. The chicory is really standing out now there’s not so much other competition p-p though one fact I forgot to mention is that the ‘intybus’ part of the name shares the same derivation as ‘endive’ from Egyptian tybi, meaning the month of January, when endive was eaten. They’re in advance of us – I remember earthing up in about March for buds in about May.

      • Sorry, but I have to disagree with your memory of endive in May – my blog records that we were eating it in the autumn/winter of the year we grew it. The leaves had grown during the summer and then we earthed them up in the autumn. And do you remember Dieppe market in February – with stall after stall of endives and nothing much else? Nice blue music link!

      • Quite right – don’t know what I was thinking of.

  2. We, too, have a wild chicory that borders many rural roads and my parents’ generation often harvested it for their salads. I need to pay closer attention and pick some during my next visit home. I’m sure my Zia would be thrilled to see some again.

  3. The German name for wild chicory is Wegwarte, which means guardian of paths, because it lines so many pathways with its bright blue flowers.

  4. Kendall

    Delightful blog. Of course you know that in Louisiana, coffee without chicory is like life without light. Typically I don’t know which part of the plant is used to mix with coffee, but I know the flavor, and the French Quarter literally smells like beer, chicory, coffee, and garlic. I’m reading this on a Sunday, enjoying the Blue Moon, both the music and the moons at the heart of each flower. Happy Birthday, LoJ!!! May this year be the best ever, and may you have many many more!

  5. It’s the dried root, Kendall.

  6. Chicory is the valuable herb which for a long time has won popularity in national medicine.Chicory was also often prescribed by herbalists of recent centuries to cure a whole host of ailments; the herbalist of the middle ages often recommended herbal remedies made from the chicory roots as tonics, as laxatives, and as diuretics.
    http://www.adeptimpex.com/chicory_supplier_india.php

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