|CHICORY GROWING ON ROADSIDE...|
Chicory, Chicorium intybus, in the Sunflower Family (Compositae), is a European perennial plant long cultivated in its native habitat for its edibility and as a forage crop. In North America it is present as a fairly common roadside weed, as it grows in the poorest soils. Its young roots are edible boiled, and its young leaves and flowers are added to salads. In Europe it is grown in greenhouses and blanched for winter salads. Its roasted and ground roots are used as a coffee substitute (it contains no caffeine), and in the American south it has long been used as an addition to coffee, to which it lends a slightly bitter taste.
Chicory used to be available in the coffee isle, either separately or in combination with coffee, but I no longer see it where we shop. I have been told to look in the Mexican food section, and shall do so, as it has been a long time since I have tried it.
Growing along roadsides, the chicory plants are usually dirty and dusty, and years ago would have been carriers of lead from the exhaust of leaded gas; roadside are also difficult to dig the roots out of, so if one wishes to harvest chicory it would be best to find it growing in a farm field.
Chicory is a tall, wiry herbaceous plant with blue flowers and sparse leaves, so it is very easy to identify, and look-alikes are few or none.
I find it rather difficult to photograph chicory flowers, as they open only in full sun and are closed even on a cloudy day, or in the late afternoon. Add to that the fact that by mid-August town maintenance crews are running out of work to do and are mowing all the roadsides, and chicory becomes a rather rare plant.