Definitions

chicory plant

Chicory

[chik-uh-ree]

Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a bushy perennial herb with blue, lavender, or occasionally white flowers. It grows as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and in North America, where it has become naturalized. Common chicory is also known as blue sailors, succory, and coffeeweed. It is also called cornflower, although that name is more properly applied to Centaurea cyanus. The cultivated forms are grown for their leaves (var. foliosum), or for the roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive, sugarloaf or witloof.

Chicory is also the common name in the US (and in France) for curly endive (Cichorium endivia). There is considerable confusion between Cichorium endivia and Cichorium intybus.

Leaf chicory

Chicory may be grown for its leaves, eaten raw as a salad. It is generally divided into three types of which there are many varieties:

  • Radicchio usually has variegated red or red and green leaves. Some only refer to the white-veined red leaved type as radicchio. Also known as red endive and red chicory. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. It can also be used to add color and zest to salads.
  • Sugarloaf looks rather like cos lettuce, with tightly packed leaves.
  • Belgian endive is also known as French endive, witlo(o)f in the USA, chicory in the UK, as witlof (the Dutch name) in Australia, endive in France, and chicon in parts of Northern France and in Francophone parts of Belgium. It has a small head of cream-coloured, bitter leaves. It is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight in order to prevent the leaves from turning green and opening up (etiolation). The plant has to be kept just below the soil surface as it grows, only showing the very tip of the leaves. It is often sold wrapped in blue paper to protect it from light and so preserve its pale colour and delicate flavour. The smooth, creamy white leaves may be served stuffed, baked, boiled, cut and cooked in a milk sauce, or simply cut raw. Slightly bitter, the whiter the leaf, the less bitter the taste. The harder inner part of the stem, at the bottom of the head, should be cut out before cooking to prevent bitterness. Belgium exports chicon/witloof to over 40 different countries. The technique for growing blanched endives was accidentally discovered in the 1850s in the Josaphat valley in Schaerbeek, Belgium . Endive is cultivated for culinary use by cutting the leaves from the growing plant, then keeping the living stem and root in a dark place. A new bud develops but without sunlight it is white and lacks the bitterness of the sun-exposed foliage. Today France is the largest producer of endives.

Although leaf chicory is often called "endive", true endive (Cichorium endivia) is a different species in the genus.

Root chicory

Root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) has been in cultivation in Europe as a coffee substitute for a long time. The roots are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive, especially in the Mediterranean region (where the plant is native), although its use as a coffee additive is also very popular in India, parts of Southeast Asia and the American South, particularly in New Orleans.

Around 1970 it was found that the root contains up to 20% inulin, a polysaccharide similar to starch. Since then, new strains have been created, giving root chicory an inulin content comparable to that of sugar beet (around 600 dt/ha). Inulin is mainly found in the plant family Asteraceae as a storage carbohydrate (for example Jerusalem artichoke, dahlia etc.). It is used as a sweetener in the food industry (with a sweetening power 30% higher than that of sucrose) and is sometimes added to yogurts as a prebiotic. Inulin can be converted to fructose and glucose through hydrolysis. Inulin is also gaining popularity as a source of soluble dietary fibre.

Chicory, with sugar beet and rye was used as an ingredient of the East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), introduced during the "coffee crisis" of 1976-9.

Some beer brewers use roasted chicory to add flavor to their stouts.

Herbal use

Chicory (especially the flower) was used as a treatment in Germany, and is recorded in many books as an ancient German treatment for everyday ailments. It is variously used as a tonic and appetite stimulant, and as a treatment for gallstones, gastro-enteritis, sinus problems and cuts and bruises. (Howard M. 1987)

Use and toxicity

According to traditional folklore, long-term use of chicory as a coffee substitute may damage human retinal tissue, with dimming of vision over time and other long term effects. Modern scientific literature contains little or no evidence to support or refute this claim. Ophthalmologists at the University of Minnesota say that a condition that causes permanent vision loss has been diagnosed in a small group of men who have ingested large amounts of chicory. The condition, nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), described as "stroke of the eye," occurs when blood flow is cut off to the optic nerve, which injures the nerve and results in permanent vision loss. These cases were published in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Neuro-ophthalmology.

Root chicory contains volatile oils similar to those found in plants in the related genus Tanacetum which includes Tansy, and is likewise effective at eliminating intestinal worms. All parts of the plant contain these volatile oils, with the majority of the toxic components concentrated in the plant's root.

Chicory is well known for its toxicity to internal parasites. Studies indicate that ingestion of chicory by farm animals results in reduction of worm burdens, which has prompted its widespread use as a forage supplement. There are only a few major companies active in research, development, and production of chicory varieties and selections. Most of them are in New Zealand.

History

The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae" ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance"). Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779 as the "chicoree", which the French cultivate as a pot herb. In the Napoleonic Era in France, chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee or a coffee substitute; this practice also became common in the United States and the United Kingdom, e.g., in England during the Second World War and in Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence which has been on sale since 1885.

In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons.

Chicory is an ingredient in typical Roman recipes, generally fried with garlic and red pepper, with its bitter and spicy taste, often together with meat or potatoes. FAO reports that in 2005, China and the USA were the top producers of lettuce and chicory.

Chicory is also mentioned in certain sericulture (silk-growing) texts. It is said that the primary caretaker of the silkworms, the "silkworm mother" should not eat or even touch it.

The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the Blue Flower. It was also believed to be able to open locked doors, according to European folklore.

References

See also

External links

Search another word or see chicory planton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature