Chicory – not just a coffee substitute

Why not try oven braised chicory. Image taken from google images
Why not try oven braised chicory. Image taken from Google Images

Chicory is a larger relative to the common dandelion.  It’s large tap root has been used for centuries as a coffee substitute especially when coffee was not available. Chicory’s leaves are used in salads and tonics just like dandelion leaves. The roots can be eaten like a vegetable and it has been cultivated for such uses in the past.

It is very high in Vitamin C, Beta-carotene (Vit A), magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, calcium, iron and folic acid plus more.

Beautiful chicory illustration sourced from google images
Beautiful chicory – illustration sourced from Google Images

It also has the highest amount of inulin amongst all the plants that contain inulin (herbs like elecampane, dandelion, burdock and foods like asparagus, leeks, garlic onions and bananas).  Up to 1/3 of it’s total plant constituents is made up of inulin.  Inulin is a soluble dietary fibre in a group of special carbohydrates called Fructans. Unlike most carbohydrates inulin is non-digestible.  This allows it to pass through the small intestines and into the large intestines where it ferments.  Through this fermentation process the inulin becomes healthly intestinal micro flora (bifidobacterium).  Inulin is known as a prebiotic. It is soluble in hot water making that chicory coffee sound even better!

Chicory is also packed with plant phenols where anti-arrhythmic and anti-thrombotic properties have been shown. Considered as anti-oxidants studies have shown that substituting to a chicory coffee could reduce your chance of cardiovascular disease.

Bottoms up to a nourishing cup of chicory coffee. Image taken from google images
Bottoms up to a nourishing cup of chicory coffee. Image taken from Google Images

Chicory can often be found in many coffee blends as it enhances the flavour yet also balances the stimulant effect.  It has a mild laxative effect like coffee, stimulates bile from the gall bladder and gives relief from arthritic pain.  It has also been used as a tonic to increase urine production and protect the liver.  A paste of the leaves can be applied directly to skin for swelling and inflammation.

I’ve only really touched the surface of the benefits of chicory.  Why not grow some in your garden and experiment for yourself.  The

flowers are edible also and look great in salads.

All in all this plant is a real asset to our weekly diets.