Chicory is a hardy vegetable and a close relative to the dandelion, but like dandelion, most people only know it for its wild growth in the open prairie, not a as dinner side dish. The plant has spindly stalks, slender pointed leaves and purple-blue flowers. The leaves may be eaten raw in a salad or cooked like other greens and used as an ingredient in pasta or soup. However, it’s the root that has gotten the most attention in food production.
Chicory root has made its way into many familiar foods, such energy bars, yogurt and cereal. Its natural fiber, called inulin, is used to increase the fiber content in processed foods and to help cut back on sugars and fats. Since chicory root is high in soluble fiber, it can help control blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Additionally, chicory root is a prebiotic, which helps promote production of beneficial bacteria leading to a healthy gut. Of course, adding it to processed foods is not the best way for one to get fiber in the diet. Reach for whole foods first, which often contain other important vitamins and minerals the body needs.
If you see this plant growing alongside the road, you now know it’s use in foods; you can even dig up its roots and make caffeine-free “coffee.”
Chicory Root “Coffee”
1 Tablespoon roasted and ground chicory root