Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My favorite weed

Yes, I have a favorite weed. It gets a bad rap. It is Chicory (Cichorium intybus), a member of the Composite Family. Right now, in Lancaster County, it is blooming all along our country roadsides and rough spots, forming impromptu vignettes with left behind day-lillies and Queen Ann's Lace. Chicory blooms from June until early October. Other names for this plant include wild succory, Belgian Endive, cornflower, coffee weed, witloof, or blue or ragged sailors. In Germany, it is known as Wegwart or Road Plant for it's affinity for growing along roadways.

It grows madly in my garden and I let it alone for the most part, back where the fruit bushes grow. The flowers bloom in the morning and their heads follow the sun (a phenomenon known as heliotropism), folding up by noon on a sunny day.

According to The Secrets of Wildflowers (Sanders), Linneaus used chicory as one of several flowers in a 'floral clock'. He determined that the flowers opened regularly at 5 a.m. and closed at 10a.m. In England and the U.S. the period is more like 6:30 to noon.

The legend of chicory says that the plant was once a fair maiden who refused the advances of the sun. In true male chauvinist fashion, the sun turned her into a flower, forcing her to stare at him each day and making her fade before his might.

Chicory favors poor soils and develops a long tap root, enabling it to live in environments unfavorable to most plants. In European countries, the roots are dug and forced in dark cellars in the winter. The resulting white shoots are eaten in salads. It has been used to make a coffee substitute, particularly in the south. It is used as a root vegetable, as a dye plant, and even as a hay crop. Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello.

Oh, not in Ladies Gardens,
My peasant posy!
Smile thy dear blue eyes,
Nor only - near to the skies-
In upland pastures dim and sweet-
But by the dusty road
Where tired feet
Toil to and fro,
Where flaunting Sin
May see thy heavenly hue
Or weary Sorrow look from thee
Toward a more tender hue.

- Margaret Deland (1857-1945)


Blogger Liz said...

I love chicory, too. We're growing some this year so we can harvest the roots for roasting.

6:08 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

Let me know how that turns out. I have so much of it, it would be nice to do something other than look at it.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Pennie said...

Thank you...thank you...thank you!!! I've been seeing this growing all over the place up here (in Northern Jersey) and couldn't for the life of me remember what the heck it is. It was driving me crazy because I knew what it was but just couldn't put my finger on the name. Then...along came your post.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Can I tell you I bought chicory seeds from Thompson and Morgan last year and sowed them. Ok, it's not as spectacular as the picture in the catalog but I like it. Unfortunately so do the rabbits.

12:15 AM  

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