Category Archives: Cichorium

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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