Photo: pawpaw67 (flickr)
Cichorium intybus, commonly called chicory, is a weedy looking late herb, but when it blooms it transforms itself with scores of small sky blue daisy like flowers.
It is a perennial that is native to Europe. A close relative is Chichorium endivia that we know as the slightly bitter salad vegetable, endive that is more popular in Europe than it is in America.
From Garden To Table
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks enjoyed eating endive, both raw in salads and cooked as greens.
The plant we call chicory, was brought to America by European colonists in the 19th century, and it has been growing wild along roadsides and in fields in North America ever since.
It has also been cultivated for its hard parsnip like roots which are harvested in the fall and dried, roasted and ground and used both as an additive to and substitute for coffee.
The foliage is also used as greens, but the best known product, the witloaf, the blanched crown of leaves, is sold under the name of the French endive.
Obviously chicory is a versatile plant and one that has been around for centuries, and it has certainly travelled many miles. If you see it flowering by a roadside this summer, remember its pedigree as you admire its azure blue.