How to recognize and harvest field chicory

Field chicory or wild chicory is a perennial plant, native to Europe but so resistant that it has spread practically everywhere. It grows spontaneously wherever there is some ground, without the need for special care and it can be collected without fear of threatening the species.

Chicory is in fact an amazing plant. Known and used since ancient times for remarkable phytotherapeutic properties it was also one important food resource. Now the practice is less widespread, but once in the countryside it was very common to meet the so-called “cicoriare”, expert pickers of chicory and wild herbs, today custodians of the extraordinary culinary tradition linked to poor food.

How to recognize field chicory

Wild chicory, also known as wild radicchio, scientific name Cichorium intybus, it is not particularly difficult to recognizeespecially when in bloom.

It grows in seedlings of 10-15 centimeters and up to one meter or more. The younger leaves are elongated and rounded. They become toothed, lanceolate, as they grow, with a central rib that can be white or reddish-purple. It is easily recognizable in the fields during late spring and early summer when in bloom, thanks to its unmistakable indigo flowers, with narrow and long petals and slightly jagged at the tip. These open in the morning with sunlight but soon wither as the sun gets hotter.

When to harvest wild chicory: seasonality

Field chicory is available practically all year round in the southern regions. The collection of leaves for food usehowever, it mostly happens between March and November, with a summer break during the flowering time. However, it must be said that chicory it is edible in all its partsalthough these are used in different ways. Even the flower can be eaten until the corolla is tender.

The properties of field chicory

Wild chicory is detoxifying, purifying and facilitates digestion. Already in ancient times the Egyptians used it to treat liver disease and purify the blood. The Greeks and Romans, in addition to medicinal virtuesthey exploited them digestive properties. In fact, it was always present in abundance at lavish banquets and it was customary to eat it, both raw and cooked, between one course and another.

Being a wild species, like all wild varieties it is a food from very high nutritional density since it has not undergone the progressive nutritional impoverishment experienced by the plants selected in agriculture for cultivation.

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