Chicory is in the same family as dandelion, and has many culinary and medicinal uses. I just grow them for food and fun.
Looking for an interesting salad green to grow indoors in my Aerogarden electronic planter, I ordered seeds online for a plant advertised as Cleo Italian Dandelion, which turned out to be chicory, a plant known all over the world and famed in antiquity by the Eqyptians. Mine sprouted and grew quickly indoors last winter. In my first photo, the plants are a little over two weeks old.
The young leaves of this cut and come again salad green are tender enough to use as a salad green when small, although like other members of the dandelion family, they are best mixed with other greens. When they get a bit bigger, then they are good sauteed with meat and/or potatoes.
The roots are famous for their use as a coffee substitute, but as I am not a coffee drinker, I have yet to take an interest in the roots, although they are said to reduce glycemia. I do slice the leaves up and add them to my veggie teas, however, as well as to different kinds of broth. The flavor and nutrition of my chicory interests me more than for its medical properties, but it is interesting to note that the leaves of this plant are said to be toxic to internal parasites and for centuries they have been fed to farm animals for that reason.
In March or April, when my indoor chicory plants had a nice healthy root system and were beginning to crowd the growing surface of my AeroGarden, I moved them into a raised planter outdoors. In June there was no sign that they were about to flower, but upon returning from a month’s vacation, there were flower stalks a yard high, burgeoning over the by now diminutive leaves.
These flowers open early in the morning and shrivel up, becoming nondescript in the heat of the afternoon. The chicory flowers are edible, but one has to get up early to snack on them.
Published in: Gardening