At the end of the street where I grew up, there is a place we call ‘the Woods.’ It is a 10 acre conservation area with a duck pond, looming hawthorn trees, hidden blackberry thickets and sacred paths for dog walkers. July through August, along the paths in these woods, one finds scraggly blooms of an edible, herbaceus perrennial plant with pale blue flowers: Chickory | Cichorium intybus.
While I never did anything with the plants but struggle to pick a few flowers to wear behind my ears or string into a flower necklace, there are foragers around the world who will eat or drink them. Not in raw form, though.
I had been mistaken for years, calling these cornflowers. When I compared the color in the crayola box to these, something seemed amiss. Thanks to the internet, I corrected myself, and now know we have something entirely different growing in our woods.
Though edible, the flower is very bitter. The leaves, after blanching, may be tossed in salads. Mature green leaves can be used as a cooked vegetable. The roots may be baked, ground and used a coffee substitute or additive.
I read that by cooking and discarding the water, the bitterness can be reduced, leaving the chicory leaves to be sauteed with garlic and anchovies and accompany Mediterranean pasta and meat dishes.
The pale blue wildflowers, sometimes considered a weed, are a sign that summer is in full swing. They also happen to grow at the eye-height of a toddler on a nature walk with grandpa.