Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicory: Smile at the flower and drink the root!

CHICORY   photo by Jonathan Schechter

There is no life without coffee, for coffee is one of the essential elements for human existence and the continuing evolution of mankind. 
 Absence of coffee leads to madness, anarchy and other maladies.
At least that's the way I see it.
But there is a darn good coffee subsitute I am eyeing on the edge of my roadside at this very moment as I sit outside on a wireless connection and listen to a house wren sing away. That pale blue friend of herbalists and coffee lovers is chicory, an alien weed - a hardy perennial that  has colonized the landscape. I love this plant as did the white-skin invaders in tall sailing ships that brought it to America's shores in the 1700's. 
Here is why: When the long thick tap roots are dried and roasted and chopped to pieces they make an excellent subsitute for coffee. The down side is their is no caffine.   But it tastes good, has a roasted, nutty flavor and perhaps tricks my mind into thinking it's getting a morning fix.
Chicory has other benefits beyond being a beverage and a delicate beauty. The root can be boiled  as a vegetable, young leaves add a bite to salads and on-going research seems to confirm that chicory is good for the liver and blood and poultices  of crushed parts can be used on bruises.
And chicory blooming in fields and meadows brings back memories of summer camp days, when I was a bearded camp nauralist in the hills of Western N.Y. but that's another tale for another day.


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