Chicory Flowers

March 29, 2013 |

photo by Val Baldwin Carnell.

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) adorns the graveled roadsides from July to November. Its spreading, azure blue ray flower heads, profusely scattered along its stems, affirm its Mediterranean ancestry, as does the flower’s siesta-like closing in the afternoons. Similar to its cousin endive (Cichorium endivia), chicory’s slightly bitter lance-shaped to oblong toothed leaves are used fresh in salads when young, eaten after boiling when mature. But it is its root, roasted until dark brown and brittle, ground and prepared like coffee, that contributed to its spread around the world, including West Virginia.

Historically, chicory root was used as a liver tonic and to relieve stomach upset. Recent studies have confirmed its anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic and probiotic properties. A humble plant with outward beauty and hidden miracles. American settlers most likely brought chicory over from Europe. Located not too far from US 219 the town of Bluefield, which had chicory farms, was likely named after the blue of the chicory flowers.

Look for chicory flowers along US 219 in late summer and early fall, especially in areas where limestone chips have broken away from the rocks. Beware: Chicory is not native to West Virginia and will take over your yard if you plant it. Please harvest with caution.

Click here for a classic and simple Italian recipe for “Wild Chicory Spaghetti,” with olives, garlic, anchovies and Parmesan cheese.

For information about traveling to Historic Bluefield, click here.

This article was written by guest writer Bonnie Gifford and Roxy Todd

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