Edible, Wild, and Blue

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.

Cichorium intybus | Chicory

Cichorium intybus | Chicory – 1/640 sec; F/5.6; ISO-1000; 124mm; center weighted average metering mode, no flash

 

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.

 

IMG_4165-ChicoryAlongTracksWithGrandpa-SMALL

Chicory Along Tracks With Grandpa

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.

 

IMG_4161-ExaminingChicory-SMALL

Nature Walk, Specimen Gathering

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s