Wild Edibles: (Part...ummm...whatever...) ---- Chicory

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Ok, folks, just in case we still get some big problems (from Y2K or whatever else), it wouldn't hurt to take another mouthful of yet more wild edibles info. I'd like to continue to focus on plants that are relatively common so that this thread will be useful to as many of you as possible.

This week's lesson: Chicory.

It's common in roadsides and other disturbed soils, but doesn't seem to like acid soil. It's a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium, plus trace minerals.

Also, because my online service keeps quitting on me in the middle of writing a post, I'll have to make each post short, but continue on down the thread with more info -- kinda piecemeal.

And I've access to lots of materials on this stuff, and there's no need for me to paraphrase...so most of the materials will be quoted right from the texts.

To be continued...

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000


Thank you Eve! Can this be grown in the house? I haven't had much luck growing herbs indoors, but I would like to try again. I guess I don't have a green thumb. Any tips?

-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 13, 2000.

I had boiled milkweed a couple years ago. Boiled it twice for a while to destroy the milky sap. Could not believe how delicious it was.

Frankly, not to discourage this series because it's good information, but for the average person tied to the corner 7-11 for survival, the best veggie idea is an old jar and plenty of alfalfa seeds. For ten bucks I got enough to keep my whole town buried in sprouts for a millenium or so.

-- euell (gibbons@not.not.not), February 13, 2000.

Here is a URL for an edible plant data base that I use. In addition to this, I have found info on a lot of common garden plants that are edible, like Primrose, Day Lily, Nasturtiums, etc. I will see if I can come up with some book names and more URLs & post them later. This is a great (& useful) topic!!

Thanks, Carolyn PS- I'm not sure how to post a URL on this site so I'll just type it for now: http://www.scs.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/index.html (click on the "database")

-- Carolyn (artchicks@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

Thanks for your interest, y'all!

I've been pretty busy today, but I'm willing to keep this thread going as long as possible.

This is a vast subject and I'm really not trying to present myself as a know-it-all, although I am a fanatical student of this stuff. So, I absolutely encourage all types of input on this from all of you.

And I'll try to answer all questions, but again -- they'll probably be in separate posts for the reason I gave above.

Hi, Dee,

I have to tell ya I didn't anticipate this one! I have no experience growing chicory indoors. But I understand that it isn't suitable for growing indoors, according to Lesley Bremness ("The Complete Book of Herbs", p. 68).

You certainly can, though, dig up the roots, place them in boxes of composted sand (there are variations here) in a dark place indoors, keep them watered, at about 55 degrees, not too near the furnace, and in a few weeks or so you should get a crop of blanched leaves that you can use for salads. If you'd like more details on this end of it, let me know.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

Hi, euell,

Hey, cool handle. And a lower case "e" -- just like me!

Re the milkweed: Thanks for sharing your experience. You know, the Indians (not sure which tribes) used the coagulated milk from the stems (from the boiling process) as a chewing gum, according to the Handbook of Edible Weeds, p. 40 (by James A. Duke, PhD (botany)). Dr. Duke tried this personally, with success.

And if you're still into the milkweed (Asclepias syriaca and Asclepias speciosa are the milkweeds generally recognized as edible), just be aware that there are some poisonous look-alikes: Dogbanes, especially Hemp Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), which, like milkweed, has opposite leaves and milky sap. And stay away from the narrow- leaved milkweed species, especially Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). If you'd like more detailed descriptions of any of these, let me know.

And I welcome your comment on alfalfa. Anyone who can take advantage of that should go for it. Just keep in mind (I'm sure you are, but I hafta say it) the importance of balancing your foods as much as possible for nutritional purposes.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

Hi, Carolyn,

Thanks for the URL. It's a real winner -- the vast Plants for a Future database. I'm familiar with it, and in general, it's a teriffic site. In my research I did, however, discover that they seem to have a habit of repeating sentences word for word across genera when describing uses of the plants. My particular experience was in connection with research on inner bark. But I have to say that my experience in the database overall has been very limited, and also that I'm just blown away with many of the other wonderful features they have.

And Carolyn, I appreciate and look forward to your other contributions to this thread.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

Ahoy, Eve! If yuh has a woid processer, ya can prepares yer entire presingtation on it, and when ya gets to this forum, ya cuts and pastes the entire piece wit'out nary a worry inta the "post answer" page, and it won't takes but a minit or less! Good ta hears frum ya! ackackackackack!

yer friend on tha oshins...Popeye.

-- Popeye the Sailor (Always@the.helm), February 13, 2000.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) continued...

From "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" by Euell Gibbons, p. 69ff:

"Chicory, although originally naturalized from Europe, is now a common roadside plant from Nova Scotia to Florida and West to the Plains. It is also found up and down the Pacific Coast and locally elsewhere. Succory is another name by which this plant is known, and on account of its pretty-colored but tattered-looking flowers it is called Blue Sailors or Ragged Sailors.

"In early spring the first leaves that appear at the top of the perennial taproot greatly resemble those of the closely related dandelion in both size and shape. They are often gathered indiscriminately with dandelion leaves by those seeking spring greens. This is no misfortune, for the taste of the two is almost identical, and both are equally healthful.

"In early summer the chicory puts up a loosely branched stalk that reaches two or three feet high, bearing slender, sparingly toothed leaves that are dark green in color with a purple midrib. In the axils of these leaves are the branches that bear the bright blue flowers, which are about two inches across and resemble a dandelion in form, but have ragged-looking edges because of the unevenness in length of the strap-shaped petals. These flowers are very erratic about opening and closing, seldom being found open after noon, except on cool, cloudy days."

Following posts: Uses as an edible...

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

Oh, by the way, folks...The chicory thing was to be a general focus, but in another way it was an excuse to open up the discussion to anything y'all might want to talk about regarding wild edibles. I mean, after all, how much can you say just about chicory?

Edible uses of Chicory...

Again we continue with Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus)...

"As cooked greens, and even as raw salad, chicory is the equal of the dandelion, and that means it's tops. However, unless you gather the leaves while they are very young, you will be disappointed, for they soon become too bitter to eat. To get the finest chicory salad, you should almost be there to grab the first leaves as they form. The best tool is a weeder or asparagus knife, for the best part of the chicory is found underground.

"You don't so much pick this salad as dig it. Slide your tool underground and cut the root near the top. Trim off the root just high enough to keep the crown of leaves together. The white, underground parts of the leaves make an excellent salad, just washed and dressed with oil and vinegar. Or you can cook the whole top as a potherb, boiling it only a few minutes and seasoning with salt and butter. When collected early enough, chicory is unexcelled as a spring green."

More to come...

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 13, 2000.

I learned about the wrong type of milkweed by wretched experience. I thought it was the same stuff that had been fine before.


-- dandelion (golden@pleurisy.plant), February 14, 2000.

Hey, Popeye!

Howzitgoin, Pops? And thanks so much for your advice; I might give this a shot. But, you know, at least for this thread, I'm gettin' to kinda like it this way. I think it's more user-friendly. I mean, I tried to picture myself taking on a five-foot-long essay on chicory all at once -- with no pictures, mind ya -- and I could imagine my eyes glazing over while I slowly slid off the chair...

And, you know, I could even turn it into a kind of a soap opera! Yeah! What's gonna happen next? Could I eat the roots? What if I boil it too long? And will she be more precise on the nutrients? Or what?

You know, it could get everyone biting their nails, hangin' on the edge of their seats, even skipping meals and going in late to work, in hopes that the next segment would be popping up at any time...

Well, Pops, happy sailin', and I hope ya get some time off soon...back to your home...in...Jersey? ("woid") :)

Hi, Dee,

See Daisy Jane's thread above and seek her assistance if you'd like more on growing herbs in general. My gardening/propagation experience is somewhat limited, although I have lots of research tools in that area as well.


I'm sorry to hear of your milkweed experience. Can you talk about it? Maybe we could all learn from it.


I finally think I'm over my initial excitement at finding another poster with a lower case "e" at the beginning of their name. Yes...I'm better now. Really.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 14, 2000.

eve, this is the reason the prep forum was created, especially if you intend to clog the forum with a series on wild edibles. besides, it will be far more useful there, instead of buried in non-prep garbage at this site. please stick to the appropriate forum for this. TIA

-- please use (the@appropriate.forum), February 14, 2000.

please use,

I appreciate your comments, and they do make sense.

I really haven't looked at my series as clogging this forum because, on the average, they're not very frequent. They might get more frequent, but I don't have the time or energy to do more than one every few weeks or so. Of course, when you add this to all of the other OT stuff here, I can certainly see your point. You know, in the past I have done a couple of them in the prep forum, although right now, my feeling is that many more people read this forum, especially nowadays, so I think that in that way, they would get much more exposure here. But again, as you imply, they could actually be getting less, because there's a different audience here.

So I hear ya -- maybe I'm in the wrong spot. I'm absolutely open to changing my venue for this. Can I get more input from anyone else out there?

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 14, 2000.

please use,

I have just been over to the prep forum and noticed that there were only ten new threads posted over the last week or so, and none at all since Feb. 11, besides my own (that I just now posted). This is what I was afraid of.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 14, 2000.

Chicory, continued...

Still from "Stalking the Wild Asparagus"...

"Where chicory is plentiful, one can upend a flowerpot over several plants, stopping the hole in the bottom to let them blanch in darkness. It is only when they grow in light that they become excessively bitter (yet they're more nutritious this way -- eve). You can even dig up the roots of any unwanted plants, trim off the large leaves, and plunge the roots in a box of wet sand or sawdust in your cellar and get a crop or two of blanched salad greens...(I hope to give details on this process in a later post -- eve).

"In the literature on this subject one frequently finds reference to the use of chicory roots as a vegetable, cooked like parsnips or salsify. Our own experiments along this line have not been too successful. When the young, first-year roots are peeled of their tough rind, there is little left. These slender, white cores, cut crosswise, cooked and flavored like parsnips, are edible, but they are certainly nothing to rave about. We felt that they fell far short of repaying the labor of digging and preparing them. (I hope to try to explore this further, though, and share what other authors have to say about this, in an upcoming post -- eve)

"It is as a substitute for, and an adulturant of, coffee that the chicory root is most often used. In some sections of our country coffee blended with chicory is overwhelmingly preferred to pure coffee. Each year we import many tons of chicory root for this purpose. This imported root is exactly the kind that you will find under those common blue flowers that decorate our roadsides with homely, unpretentious beauty.

"To make your own chicory brew, dig some of the long taproots, scrub them thoroughly and roast them slowly in an oven until they are hard and brittle, showing dark brown on the inside. Then grind and brew exactly as you would coffee, except that chicory is somewhat stronger than coffee, so less of it should be used. When skillfully prepared, chicory is an excellent coffee substitute, more nearly approaching the taste of real coffee than most."

Note from me (eve): In future posts on this thread, I intend to get into what other authors have to say about many of these issues, and more. And in a way, it gets even more interesting when you find that sometimes they disagree with each other.

To be continued...

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 14, 2000.

I've used Chickory for years as a beverage.
At one time when I was trying to reduce my
coffee intake I would mix coffee 50/50 with

It has medicinal qualities that check the bad
effects of coffee. It's good for the liver,
stomach, spleen, blader and kidneys. It was
also used as a hepatic, diuretic and a tonic.

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), February 14, 2000.

Hi, spider,

Thanks for your contribution. And medicinal benefits are very welcome here, too. When I get a chance, I'd like to talk to you about some of this.

To all,

My parents (both sickly) have just gotten into a tangled mess with their home help, so I may not be able to post much more until tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got a general wild edibles thread started on the prep forum that seems to be getting a pretty good number of interesting responses, so feel free to post in either or both threads and I'll be back as soon as I can.

Thank you all.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 14, 2000.


Thanks for the info. Very interesting. You seem very knowledgeable about these topics...I appreciate the details. I buy coffee mixed with chicory sometimes and I like the flavor.

Your post is making me hungry for a nice salad filled with fresh garden herbs...I'm inspired now! =)

-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 14, 2000.

eve - It is true there has not been so much activity on the prep forum, but I think we were just waiting for a fresh batch of ideas. What you are doing here will get lost in the archives, so why should we bother contributing? As it is, your double posting is a waste of bandwidth.

-- please use (the@appropriate.forum), February 14, 2000.

To all,

Please also see my general wild edible thread going on now in the prep forum. It's getting some good responses and covering some interesting stuff.

And I'll try to get another chicory post in here sometime today.


Thank you for your kind words. And, you know...your last sentence ( "...a nice salad filled with fresh garden herbs...") just made me hungry for the same thing! In fact, if my next post gets in late, I can just dust off the old, "well, I can't concentrate with a mouthful of salad" excuse...:)

please use,

You do raise good points. This arose from my lack of understanding of the mechanics and dynamics of these two forums. I guess next time I'll post in the prep forum alone, but when I do, I'd still like to alert the main forum that I've done so.

Thanks for your help, and any other suggestions regarding these two threads or my future ones, are welcome.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 15, 2000.

Chicory, continued...

This time, from " Handbook of Edible Weeds" by James A. Duke, Ph.D. (botany):

"Known to the Romans, chicory was mentioned by such early historians as Horace, Ovid, Pliny, and Virgil, and was early consumed as a vegetable or salad. Scorched roots, bitter as they are, have been used as a coffee...It is a shame that some good food can't be made from these easily available roots, abundant, easily harvested by pulling after a rain, and easy to recognize. One of my favorite wild vegetable broths (bouillons) is made of chicory flowers, red clover flowers, and wild garlic flower heads (unopened), all easily available in Maryland in June...(Also), the attractive blue flowers can be used, fresh or pickled, in salads. The early spring shoots are almost as bitter as those of dandelion, relished by some, but too bitter for my jaundiced palate. Shoots, blanched by covering for weeks to keep light off, seem both more attractive and palatable, like the better and much more expensive Belgian Endive."

And from "Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants" by Bradford Angier,

"(The leaves) provide greens for salads and for cooking. As these leaves grow older they, like those of the dandelion, become more and more bitter, encouraging some cooks to drain off the first boiling water and then to simmer to tenderness in the second.

"Raw chicory greens, although over 92% water, have for each 100 grams of the edible portion 86 milligrams of calcium, 40 mg. of phosphorus, .9 mg. of iron, 420 mg. of potassium, plus no less than 4,000 international units of Vitamin A, 22 mg. of Vitamin C, and goodly traces of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

"Much of the chicory root used on this continent as a coffee substitute, stretcher, and flavorer is imported from Europe, but exactly the same roots grow wild right here at home. If you'd like to proceed on your own, just dig some of the long roots, scrub them with a brush, and then roast them slowly in a partly open oven until they will break crisply between the fingers, exposing a dark brown interior. Then grind and store in a closed container..."

More soon...

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 15, 2000.

Does anyone know if this thread could somehow be easily copied into my prep forum thread? Then all these new materials would be together and we could all go over there.


-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), February 15, 2000.

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