Chicory is a herbaceous plant from the dandelion family and often produces bright blue flowers. The plant is grown primarily in darkness which explains its white leaves with pale yellow or red tips. Chicory is usually cultivated for salad leaves or for its buds which can be baked, ground and used as a coffee substitute or roasted to add flavour to stouts. There are three main types of cultivated chicory; ‘radicchio’, ‘sugarloaf’ and ‘Belgian endive’.
Chicory flourishes and flowers in the summer months after a winter chilling period. The plant contains a high level of minerals, indicating its need for highly nutritious soil. Containing zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and a range of vitamins, there are several health benefits of chicory. These include easing digestion, preventing heartburn, reducing arthritis-related pains and boosting the immune system.
When eaten raw, chicory leaves often have a bitter taste, and this bitterness can be reduced by boiling and discarding the water afterwards. The plant can be used fresh in salads, or stir-fried, baked, poached or grilled.
Patlin Gardens and Alnda Farms sell chicory at Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market.