Chicory Facts

Chicory Facts
Chicory is a type of flowering plant that belongs to the sunflower family. It is native to West Asia, North Africa and Europe. Chicory is widely spread in North America, Australia and New Zealand today. It grows in temperate climate, on moderately drained and fertile soil. Wild chicory can be found in the open fields, near the roads and wastelands. People cultivate chicory as a source of food, animal fodder and as medicine.
Interesting Chicory Facts:
Chicory has rough, upright, smooth or partially hairy stem that can reach 10 to 40 inches in height. Entire stem is filled with bitter milky sap.
Chicory has strong, well developed spindle-shaped taproot. It penetrates deeply into the ground and ensures survival of the plant during the drought.
Chicory develops two types of leaves: large, lobed leaves at the base of the plant and smaller, oblong or lanceolate-shaped leaves on the upper parts of the stem. Both types of leaves are green colored.
Chicory produces bluish-purple (rarely white or pink) flowers. Petals are arranged in two rows: shorter on the outside and longer, erect on the inside. Tips of the petals are hairy. Bunch of dark blue stamens is located in the center of the flower.
Chicory blooms from July to October. Each flower lasts only one day. Flowers can be seen only during the sunny days.
Chicory develops bisexual flowers (flowers that contain both types of reproductive organs) but they cannot perform self-pollination. Honey bees are main pollinators of this plant.
Fruit of chicory is dry achene with toothed scales on the surface.
Chicory has miniature, obovate-shaped seed that are light brown colored.
Chicory is often cultivated as forage plant. It contains proteins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur and zinc that are important for the animals' health.
Wild chicory is important source of food for the deer, elk, turkey and quail.
Leaves of three types of chicory are used in human diet: radicchio, sugarloaf and Belgian endive. Chicory has slightly bitter and spicy taste. Leaves can be consumed fresh as salad or cooked, roasted and grilled.
Belgian endive has creamy white leaves because they grow under the ground or in areas without sunlight (sun triggers synthesis of chlorophyll which is responsible for the green color of leaves).
Taproot of chicory contains inulin, a polysaccharide that can be used as sweetener or a substitute for sucrose. Ground root can be used as substitute for coffee or as flavoring agent for the coffee.
Chicory can be used in treatment of gallstones, gastrointestinal disorders, cuts and bruises in people. Inulin extracted from the root can facilitate weight loss. Volatile oils from the root of chicory can eliminate intestinal parasites in animals.
Chicory is biennial plant (life span: 2 years) but it can survive up to 5 years under optimal conditions.

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