Chicory (cichoium intybus)
Early in the season, chicory grows as a rosette of irregularly-toothed basil leaves. These leaves look similar to dandelion leaves and can grow up to six inches in length, growing low to the ground. Then, leafless stems emerge with blue flowers, resembling daisies.
The chicory flower resembles a daisy and is about one and a half inches wide. Chicory blooms from June to October. This plant grows only one or two flowers at a time, with each flower only lasting one day. These flowers attract many insects with their nectar and pollen including bees, butterflies, and flies.
The chicory plant grows all over North America. It can grow as high as four feet tall and can be found growing in fields, roadsides, and your backyard. You might find it growing alongside other weeds and grasses, including dandelions, Smooth Crabgrass, English Plantain, Switchgrass, and thistles.
All parts of the chicory plant are edible.
Eat the leaves when they are young in a salad. The leaves are somewhat bitter, similar to the leaves of its cousin, Dandelion, but this can be reduced by cooking them. The root can be cooked as a vegetable or as a coffee substitute. To use the root as a coffee substitute, roast the roots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them. Roots can also be eaten raw or boiled, or they can be dried, ground, and used as seasoning. The flower is edible but is very bitter.
Historically, chicory root has been used for jaundice, spleen problems, and constipation and a tea made from foliage supposedly promoted bile production and released gallstones.
The leaves are a great source of vitamin A, B complex, C, E, and K and also potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and magnesium. Chicory root contains vitamin C and Inulin which is believed aids in maintaining strong bones and teeth by improving the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
Chicory has no known toxicity. However, for some humans, it can cause contact dermatitis.
Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.