Chicory Identification, Benefits and Uses
I forage and eat a lot of fresh chicory leaves in early Spring when the plant is young and tender. When the stem starts to shoot up and the pretty light blue flowers appear, the leaves get tough and more bitter. Learn the identification benefits and uses of this highly nutritious chicory plant with simple recipes.
Name: Common chicory
Other Names: succory, wild endive, coffeeweed, blue daisy, blue sailors and ragged sailors
Botanical, Scientific or Latin Name: Cichorium intybus
Plant Family: Asteraceae (daisy or sunflower)
The root is what most people use. I also eat the young leaves in the early Spring and the blue flowers that appear on the mature stem.
- Diuretic – increases urination
- Laxative – loosens stool to increase bowel movement
- Tonic – tones the body
The biggest health benefit that I get from eating chicory is with my liver. The main function of the liver is to produce a liquid called bile and chicory helps the liver increase bible production. Bile helps with digestion by breaking down fats in the small intestines, carrying away waste, and filtering the blood before passing it to the rest of your body.
- Excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, K and fiber.
- High in calcium, thiamine, selenium, niacin, riboflavin, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
- The root helps detoxify the liver and gallbladder.
- Powerful diuretic that increases urine, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels.
How to Identify
This is a perennial plant that grows up to 8 feet tall on a rigid and branching stem. It has toothed leaves similar to dandelion that often “twist” instead of lying flat.The blue daisy-like flowers only open in the sun.
- The green leaves are toothed with hair only on the bottom. They resemble dandelion when young but alternate and grow spaced on the stalk.
- The small blue flower looks like a daisy. It only opens in the sun and flowers from July – October.
- The stem branches out and is very shaggy looking.
You will find look-a-likes however, they are all edible. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris) grow with chicory on our land. They look alike when the leaves are young but not so much as the plants mature. The easiest way to tell them apart is by looking for hairs on the leaves.
- Chicory – hairs on the back of the leaves.
- Dandelion – no hairs on the leaves.
- Cat’s Ear – hairs on the back and front of the leaves.
Where To Find In The Wild
This nutritious plant grows throughout North America. Look for chicory in your backyard, local park, walking trails, country roads and fields. You should always check to make sure the area has not been sprayed with chemicals before harvesting and you should never eat a wild plant unless you are 100% positive of the identification.
Where To Find Online
How to Use
The root is the most used part of the plant and is harvested in the Fall. Drying the roots and storing them in your pantry is a great way to make a nutritious drink during the winter months.
- The root can be grated and added to soups or roasted for a nutritious coffee alternative.
- The fresh young leaves can be added to salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies or juiced.
- The flowers can be added to a salad, soup, sandwich or smoothie.
Simple Steamed Greens Recipe
Boil fresh young greens for about 10 minutes and strain. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
How To Make Tea (Decoction)
A decoction is made using the roots. The herbs are gently boiled because these parts are more woody and fibrous. The nutrients are harder to extract.
- 2 tablespoon root (cut-up)
- 1 cup water
Boil 1 cup of water. Add roots and bring to a gentle boil, simmer and cover 30 minutes. Strain and save the wet herbs. Repeat with saved wet herbs. Mix both liquids together. Add honey, if desired.
How To Make Tincture
A tincture is more concentrated than a tea. Is more convenient to use and has a long shelf life. The alcohol extracts the medicinal qualities from the plant and preserves it. I like to store my tinctures in glass amber bottles (with dropper) but any clean glass jar will be good. Store in a cool dark place and they will keep indefinitely.
- Dried roots
- 80 proof vodka
- Quart jar with lid
Fill a quart glass canning jar halfway with dried roots. Pour 80 proof vodka over the roots filling almost to the top of the jar. Stir well, seal lid tightly and label with herb and date. Keep in a dark place (cabinet) and shake once every day for 2 – 4 weeks. Strain and transfer liquid to glass amber bottles or any clean jar. Sore in a cool dry place.
How To Make Chicory Root Coffee
Most of us call it coffee because it looks and tastes like coffee. The dried roots are roasted then steeped in hot water for a caffeine free drink that is highly nutritious.
- 1 teaspoon roasted root
- 1 cup boiling water
Dig up fresh roots, wash and cut into small pieces. Spread roots on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until dark brown and brittle. Cool and grind until they look like coffee. Add 1 teaspoon grinds to 1 cup boiling water. Steep 10 minutes. Enjoy as is or add your favorite sweetener and creamer. You can purchase organic dried chicory root online at Starwest Botanicals.
Wild Chicory Pesto
You can use just about any wild edible green plant for making pesto such as chickweed, cleavers, dandelion greens, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarters, red clover leaves and wood sorrel. This is a basic recipe that can be made to your taste.
- 2 cups packed fresh chicory leaves (early spring tender young)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
- Dash of sea salt
Process the seeds or nuts in a blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend smooth. Great on top of pasta, zucchini noodles or veggie sticks.
There is no toxic level for chicory. I would recommend adding a small amount to a meal and see if you have any reactions. This post is for education purposes only and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult your physician for advice regarding any health related diagnosis or treatment.