Chicory, a perennial plant with blue, sometimes white or pink flowers. What is processed from it and how can you use it in the kitchen?
Does it only take the form of a herb? And how beneficial is it for your body?
You will learn everything in the following article, which will introduce you to this wild plant.
Chicory as a sweetener and source of fiber
Chicory can be characterized as a wild plant that grows by the roadside. We date its beginnings from the times of ancient Egypt. Originally from North Africa, Western Asia and Europe, it is now also cultivated in North America, China or Australia. However, it has only been considered a cultural plant since the 17th century.
Chicory can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. The width of the flower is usually around 3-4 centimeters. This plant blooms from July to October.
It is used as an additive in drinks and food. It serves as fodder for animals, its roots are a suitable substitute for oats for horses. It is also used in medicine.
Why consume chicory?
Chicory contains inulin, an extract from its root, which is used as an alternative to sugar and is an excellent source of fiber. One fresh chicory root can contain 13-23% inulin. In addition to inulin, it is also a rich source of beta-carotene.
Chicory and health. Consuming chicory is suitable if you suffer from loss of appetite, stomach upset or constipation. It is a prevention against liver disease, gall bladder or cancer. In medical preparations, it is one of the 38 plants that are used for the production of Bach essences. You can use a paste of chicory leaves for swelling or inflammation of the skin.
In the kitchen, chicory leaves can be used in a salad or you can fry them and serve them as a side dish. Want to get inspired? Look at the production recipes with chicory .
Chicory is also used as a substitute for coffee.
Side effects of chicory
Consumption of chicory in adults is safe. But if you consume chicory root or its seeds, short-term use is recommended. Otherwise, side effects such as:
- abdominal pain
Chicory is a very rich source of fiber. It can boast a low energy value, and for that reason it is often consumed during weight loss. You can see a number of other nutritional values in the table below:
|Nutritional values||Raw chicory 100 g|
Types of chicory
Many species of chicory are grown for their leaves, chicory buds and roots. So let’s take a closer look at the individual types, their benefits and processing.
Called Cichorium intybus in Latin. An annual to biennial plant that occurs in drier places. It has pale blue flowers, green or reddish-brown stems and alternately arranged leaves.
You can see common chicory along roads, in fields or meadows. It is propagated by self-seeding.
Its roasted roots are used to make coffee substitutes or herbal teas.
It is also called wild chicory. It is used in many foreign cuisines, such as Greek, Albanian or Indian.
Wild chicory leaves are edible and have a bitter taste. It is good to combine them with vegetables, meat or pasta.
Also known as salad. A bitter vegetable that belongs to the same family as dandelions and sunflowers. It looks like a salad. It is harvested in early spring.
Green chicory is low in calories and rich in fiber, as you can see:
|Nutritional values||Raw green chicory 100 g|
|Vitamin B5||0.159 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.105 mg|
|Vitamin C||24 mg|
|Vitamin E||2.26 mg|
We distinguish other types of green chicory:
Belgian chicory – it is a suitable variety for growing in your garden. It has crispy and pale yellow leaves. The leaves are bitter, suitable for grilling or cooking.
Curly chicory – has ciliated light green outer leaves. It goes well in a salad and it is possible to cover it with a warm dressing.
Escarole – similar to lettuce. It has wrinkled green leaves, sometimes tipped with red.
Red chicory – also called Italian chicory. Its leaves are purplish-red in color. In appearance, it can easily be confused with a head of red cabbage. Even though it is bitter, it hides a lot of natural sweetness.
Chicory root comes from the Mediterranean region. Serves as a substitute for coffee. Its roots can be baked, roasted and then crushed. It is sometimes used in brewing to flavor dark types of beer.
Chicory root can serve as a prebiotic. Stimulates the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. In the table below you can see the nutritional values of these roots:
|Nutritional values||Raw chicory roots 100 g|
Chicory can also be eaten raw, the leaves just need to be washed with water and served in salads. Chicory salad is very good and nutritionally balanced.
If you want to cook chicory, it is good to serve it as a side dish or as part of a meal. For example, in Italy, chicory is served together with fava beans.
This plant is characterized by its bitter taste. How to make chicory not bitter? Add sugar or salt or choose the recook method as you can see in the following process of cooking chicory.
Chicory cooking procedure :
- Thoroughly clean, wash and filter the chicory leaves.
- Let the water drain from the leaves.
- Bring the water in a pot to a boil and place the leaves in the boiling water.
- Cook for 2 minutes.
- After cooking, drain the water and pour fresh water over the leaves.
- Bring to a boil again and cook for 5 minutes.
- Finally, drain the water. This re-cooking of the chicory leaves reduces their bitterness.
Procedure for cooking stewed chicory:
- Wash the leaves and let them drain.
- Pour water halfway into the pot, add the leaves, salt, butter and lemon juice.
- Smother everything.
- You can also stew chicory leaves with bacon.
Chicory is most often processed to make syrup and coffee. Let’s take a closer look at these chicory products.
It is used as a sweetener, an alternative to sugar. Thanks to the low glycemic index and high fiber content, even diabetics can sweeten the syrup.
You can bake, cook with chicory syrup or use it as a sweetener for coffee and tea. It has a similar structure to honey and contains only 14 g of sugar per 100 g.
It is made from chicory roots, and since it is of plant origin, it is also suitable for vegans. What are its nutritional values?
|Nutritional values||Chicory syrup 1 teaspoon|
You can flavor yogurts with chicory syrup. How about trying to make yogurt at home? Read recipes for homemade yogurt .
This type of coffee is made from dried and ground chicory root and serves as a substitute for coffee. Thanks to the more roasted flavor, it has a stronger coffee taste than regular coffee.
You can also make chicory coffee yourself. The procedure is as follows:
- Wash and chop the chicory roots.
- Cut the clean roots into thick slices. Cut off the root ends and discard.
- Heat the oven to 140°C, place the slices on a baking sheet and bake until brown.
- Grind the baked and cooled roots.
You can store the ground root in the refrigerator or in a dry, cool place for up to one year. You can cook ground chicory alone or with ground coffee.
The nutritional values of ground chicory root and coffee are as follows:
|Nutritional values||Coffee with chicory 240 ml|
Use 5 g of ground chicory and 14 g of coffee grounds for 1 cup (240 ml). If you want decaffeinated coffee, add 14 g of chicory root to 240 ml.
In addition to coffee and syrup, chicory is also processed into other products.
Inulin powder – chicory extract processed into powder form, can be added to smoothies, water or soups. Can’t think of a smoothie recipe that you can add inulin to? Get inspired among nutritionally balanced smoothie recipes .
Chicory tincture – reduces swelling, supports healthy bowel and gallbladder function.
Chicory biscuits – contain chicory root powder.
Difference between chicory and cornflower?
Chicory has many names. It is called blue daisy, blue dandelion and sometimes cornflower. But that’s the wrong name. Chicory and cornflower are different plants and the only thing that connects them is the color blue.
The cornflower has one light blue flower on the stem. It grows in the fields and is only processed into teas or salads.
Chicory has two rows of petals. Unlike cornflower, it grows everywhere and also, as mentioned several times, has a bitter taste.
If you want to eliminate sugar from your diet and increase fiber, chicory is the best option. For example, start by replacing the sugar with chicory syrup. You can buy it in every hypermarket, supermarket or health food store.