Botanical name: Cichorium intybus
Other name: Blue Daisy, Blue Sailors, Coffeeweed, Succor, Belgian Endive, French Endive
Chicory is a perennial with stems that are two to three feet high, with numerous and spreading lateral branches, growing at a very considerable angle from the central stem, so that the plant does not appear rich and full. Chicory is one of only two species that comprise the genus, Cichorium, endive being the other.
This hardy and attractive plant is due to become one of my favourite weeds. It has been introduced to the farm via the vegetable garden and after it sets seed, should become well established on the farm.
Chicory grows wild in Europe and many cultivars have been selected for garden and medicinal use. Young leaves give a boost to salads adding a little bitterness and flavour to the mix. Chicory produces a deep tap root and is able to survive harsh conditions. Being such a tasty weed, I am happy to see some plants growing on the farm. Growing in the wrong place however, this plant can become a persistent weed. Chicory is a prolific plant that thrives in places where nothing else will grow. Some consider it a weed, while others appreciate its beauty and culinary virtue.
The way you go about growing chicory will depend on whether you plan on using its root, grown as a coffee alternative, or its leaf, which is used in salads. To harvest the root, simply dig it up once the plant is grown. The leaf can be picked and eaten at the end of the summer, blanched to minimize bitterness, or forced and enjoyed during the winter months.
Prepare the soil. Chicory does best in well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients. However, chicory will also grow in other soils if they are enriched with plenty of manure and organic fertilizers.
Sow the chicory seeds 8 inches to 1 foot apart, and 1 inch deep. Do this early, in late spring to early summer, about a month after the last frost.
Wait for your crop to sprout, and thin the seedlings so that they are no more than 9 inches apart. Germination time for a chicory plant is anywhere from one to three weeks.
Keep your sprouts free of weeds and water well. If you would like to harvest your plant and use the root, you may do so after four months. The leaf may also be picked from the garden and used in a fresh salad.
Medicinally, Chicory has been used to treat skin disorders, gout, jaundice and to reduce an enlarged liver. As a poultice, Chicory was thought to improve inflammations, swellings, bruises and eye disorders. In India, the plant is still used by herbalists used to treat dyspepsia, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and skin allergies. Animal studies have revealed that Chicory can lower pulse rate and reduce cholesterol levels.