There’s something about the chicory that springs up along OMP roadsides this time of year that cheers me. It’s been one of my favorites since I carried my little book of wildflowers through the orchard when I sorted cherries on the back of the cherry shaker way back when.
I always have to remember to grab pics when I see it, because the road people usually come along straight away and mow it down – for visibility, I guess. The above photo was taken on Blue Water Road looking east. You can see Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery in the background.
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According to Wikipedia, chicory has all sorts of uses other than beautifying our roadsides. “Common chicory is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the daisy family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink. Many varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons, or roots, which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and food additive.”
It also has a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome, when a dish called puntarelle was made with chicory sprouts, and the famed lyric poet Horace described his diet this way: “As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance.” Endives is another name for chicory.
Chicory was first cultivated in the 17th century and brought to North America by early European colonists. It was adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and was also used in the United Kingdom during WWII, where “Camp Coffee,” a coffee and chicory essence, has been produced since 1885.
So there you have it. The cheery blue chicory along our roadsides has a long and storied history. And oh yeah, it’s really pretty, too.