by Daphne Lambert
Chicory Cichorium Intybus
Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family. It has bright blue flower heads that flower for just one day, die and are replaced by more bright blue flowers the next day. The display is beautiful. It can grow up to a metre in height and produces a long tap root. It has toothed leaves with short hairs and the fruits are a mottled brown. Native to Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia it is cultivated for its edible leaves and roots, but also as an ornamental flower.
There are different varieties of chicory some cultivated just for salad leaves. I grow Cichorium Intybus specifically for the root.
Chicory root has traditionally been used as a tea or in medicinal remedies to treat liver disease, gout and rheumatism. It is a mild digestive tonic much like dandelion. Chicory root has been shown to reduce stress, reduce inflammation, help manage osteoarthritis, aid gut health, relieve constipation and possibly prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
In terms of diabetes & glucose control, the root contains up to 40% inulin, which is zero on the glycemic index and has a negligible effect on raising blood sugar. This is why it has become popular among diabetics. Inulin is a soluble fibre and a prebiotic. Soluble fibers can hold water allowing mixtures to thicken or gel up, which can add bulk to foods. These characteristics make it a popular ingredient for food manufacturers, and because it is water soluble, it imparts a smooth and creamy texture. Inulin travels through the digestive tract without being metabolized until it reaches the colon becoming food for the beneficial gut bacteria thus helping to maintain a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in the colon. Too much however, much like any fibre, can cause gas, bloating, nausea, stomach cramping, diarrhea constipation & especially flatulence.
How to prepare chicory root.
Dig the roots up in the autumn.
Scrub well and leave to dry over night
Cut into small dice (you need a sharp knife and a certain degree of patience!)
Slow roast in a low temperature oven 140C, 275F, no1
When completely dry remove from the oven
Chicory is often used as a coffee substitute, in which case you can increase the temperature and roast until dark.
Store the chicory in an airtight jar
Use as a decoction up to 5g per day
To make a medicinal decoction
Place 5g of dried chicory root in a pan with 500ml water, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Strain before use.
Grind just as you would coffee beans and make as you would coffee. Experiment to find the right flavour for you. It has a rich bitter flavour.