Root chicory contains volatile oils similar to those found in plants in the related genus Tanacetum which includes Tansy, and is similarly 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. Only a few major companies are active in research, development, and production of chicory varieties and selections, most in New Zealand.
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 as a treatment for gallstones, gastro-enteritis, sinus problems and cuts and bruises. (Howard M. 1987). Inulin, the dietary fiber found in Chicory, finds application in diabetes and constipation.
Chicory has demonstrated antihepatotoxic potential in animal studies.
Chicory produces a large volume of palatable and relatively easily digested foliage with a high protein and mineral content and is suitable for grazing sheep and dairy cattle. Chicory contains small amounts of condensed tannins (some varieties more than others) aiding in the conversion of nitrogen to proteins in ruminant digestion. Tannins are also rumored to reduce to some extent some intestinal parasites. Studies indicate that the increased availability of high quality protein to the animal (perhaps in combination with increased levels of trace minerals) results in a general increase in animal condition that helps in reducing worm burdens.
Development of chicory varieties has taken place mostly in New Zealand, with some use in North America
Forage chicory varieties
Puna (Grasslands Puna) – One of the most popular forage varieties, developed in New Zealand. It is well adapted to different climates, being grown from Alberta, Canada, to New Mexico and Florida. It is resistant to bolting, which leads to high nutrient levels in the leaves in spring. It also has high resistance to grazing.
Forage Feast – A variety from France used for human consumption and also for wildlife plots. It is very cold-hardy, and due to use for human consumption it is lower in tannins than other forage varieties.
Choice – Choice has been bred for high winter and early-spring growth activity, and lower amounts of lactucin and lactone, which are believed to taint milk. It is also use for seeding deer wildlife plots.
Oasis – Bred for increased lactone rates for the forage industry, and for higher resistance to fungal diseases like Sclerotinia.
Puna II – More winter-active than most other varieties, which leads to greater persistence and longevity.
Grouse – A New Zealand variety used as a planting companion for forage brassicas. More prone to early flowering than other varieties, with higher crowns more susceptible to overbrowsing.
Six Point – A United States variety, very similar to Puna.
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.
The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.
In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. By the 1840s, after New York, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee. Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans creating a long-standing tradition.
Chicory is a common ingredient in typical Roman recipes, generally fried with garlic and red pepper to add its bitter and spicy flavor to meat or potato dishes. 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.
Chicory may be cultivated for its leaves, usually eaten raw as salad leaves. Cultivated chicory 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, witlof in Dutch or witloof in Belgian Dutch, witloof in the United States, chicory in the UK, as witloff in Australia, endive in France, and chicon in parts of northern France and in Wallonia. 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. The tender leaves are 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 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 endive. Although leaf chicory is often called "endive", true endive (Cichorium endivia) is a different species in the genus.
Root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) has been in cultivation in Europe as a coffee substitute. 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, South Africa and southern United States, particularly in New Orleans. It has also been popular as a coffee substitute in poorer economic areas, and has gained wider popularity during economic crises such as the Great Depression in the 1930s. Chicory, with sugar beet and rye was used as an ingredient of the East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), introduced during the "coffee crisis" of 1976-79.
Some beer brewers use roasted chicory to add flavor to their stouts.
Around 1970 it was found that the root contains up to 20% inulin, a polysaccharide similar to starch. 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 1/10 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 fiber and functional food.
Chicory root extract is a dietary supplement or food additive produced by mixing dried, ground chicory root with water, and removing the insoluble fraction by filtration and centrifugation. Other methods may be used to remove pigments and sugars. Fresh chicory root typically contains, by dry weight, 68% inulin, 14% sucrose, 5% cellulose, 6% protein, 4% ash, and 3% other compounds. Dried chicory root extract contains, by weight, approximately 98% inulin and 2% other compounds. Fresh chicory root may contain between 13 and 23% inulin, by total weight.
Agents responsible for bitterness
The bitter substances are primarily the two sesquiterpene lactones Lactucin and Lactucopicrin. Other ingredients are Aesculetin, Aesculin, Cichoriin, Umbelliferone, Scopoletin and 6.7-Dihydrocoumarin and further sesquiterpene lactones and their glycosides.
Common chicory is also known as blue sailors, succory, and coffeeweed. It is also called cornflower, although that name is more commonly applied to Centaurea cyanus. Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive, sugarloaf or witloof.
When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, and more or less hairy stem, from 30 to 100 centimetres (10 to 40 in) tall.
The leaves are stalked, lanceolate and unlobed.
The flower heads are 2 to 4 centimetres (0.79 to 1.6 in) wide, and bright blue. There are two rows of involucral bracts; the inner are longer and erect, the outer are shorter and spreading. It flowers from July until October.
The achenes have no pappus (feathery hairs), but do have toothed scales on top.[2
Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is a bushy perennial herbaceous plant with blue, lavender, or occasionally white flowers. Various varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or for roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and in North America and Australia, where it has become naturalized.
"Chicory" is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia); these two closely related species are often confused.