Have you ever wondered about those pretty blue flowers (or pink, white) on that long stem along the side of the road – could this really be a “weed?” In fact, because of where they tend to grow (along roadsides, fallow fields), we generally consider them to be weeds, just like other “family members” – dandelions.
However, chicory is also a plant that is cultivated for its healing properties as well as spice – tastes like coffee and can enhance the taste of sugar in baked goods. Personally, I have never tasted chicory as coffee or in baked goods, but now I plan to find the coffee.
An excerpt from MotherEarthLiving.com explains that the cultivation of chicory for medicinal purposes has been known for over 5000 years.
“According to the “doctrine of signatures ” (a renaissance theory that a plant’s appearance indicates its healing properties) the milky sap of chicory demonstrated its efficacy in promoting milk flow in nursing mothers, or perhaps diminishing it if it were too abundant; it seems to have been prescribed for both conditions. The blue of the blossoms and their tendency to close as if in sleep at noon (in England) suggested the plant’s use in treating inflamed eyes. The bruised leaves have been poulticed on swellings. Root extracts have been used as a diuretic and laxative, and to treat fevers and jaundice.”
Although not native to the U.S., it was much a part of our colonial life. In addition to the “coffee” it was used as forage for sheep, horses, and rabbits by our forefathers like Thomas Jefferson. (https://www.motherearthliving.com/plant-profile/herb-to-know-67
However, as with all herbs – healing or spice – it is important to know where and how it was grown; especially if you are wild crafting. Please be cognizant of potential pollutants such as the runoff from roads (oil/chemical impact) and the pesticides/herbicides used on fields. If you decide that you would like to grow chicory, there are seed resources available online.
So if you are walking along the road and see this plant, I encourage you to admire and thank it for its presence. Plants are just like us in that they like to know that they are appreciated.