Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cichorium intybus

One of my favorite roadside 'weeds' is Chicory. It grows along roads here in the horrible, dry, sunny spots and shares its home with Queen Anne's Lace and Black Eyed Susan. You know August is here when the roadsides turn blue. It is also sometimes called Blue Dandelion, Succory, Blue Sailors and Wild Endive. This one was introduced to the Americas from Europe. It is related to the dandelion. It wilts by afternoon, or at least the blooms close and it is pretty useless as a cut flower, though the color would be wonderful in an arrangement.
This plant has been used since ancient times and the name has been traced back through Arab medical language to Greek and Egyptian, and mention of the use of chicory is found in Roman writings. It was greatly appreciated as a spring green by southern Europeans who understood its value as a tonic after the lack of green food in the winter. It is still one of those things eaten around here as spring greens today along with dandelion and cress. In France, and in the southern U.S., because of the French influence, the roots are dug, dried, ground and added to coffee, not as an adulterant, but for their distinctive flavor.
No great medicinal values are ascribed to chicory, although it is mentioned in herbals as a diuretic, laxative, and tonic. and it seems to be generall recommended for jaundice and liver complaints, to be taken freely as a decoction, made at the rate of 1 ounce of dried, powdered root to 1 pint of water. Meyer's Herbal says that a tea made from the roots "may be taken whenever the stomach has been upset."
I've not tried to transplant it into the garden, though a few plants have arrived on their own and are left as long as they aren't totally out of place. There is plenty along the road to enjoy, though, without actually having it in my perennial beds.
More snow today. The snow on the seats of my garden benches is now as high as the backs of the benches. My afternoon walks are getting shorter because it has gotten so difficult to walk through the deep snow. We have been promised some sun by the weekend and temperatures above freezing for the first time in weeks. I sure hope so.

No comments: