Half-hidden in the tall grass along the upper dyke trail in Colony Farm, we found several stands of chicory.
|Also called Blue Weed|
Zooming in ...
|or Blue Dandelion.|
|or Ragged Sailor, for the fringed tips of the petals.|
Chicory grows in this area mostly as a weed on dry roadsides; I have seen them along the dykes on Delta and Richmond shores and beside the highway in Powell River, their sky blue or lilac flowers inconspicuous from any distance, striking when you get closer. They were originally an introduced plant, brought to the New World in the late 19th century for use as a coffee substitute, animal fodder, and herbal remedies. They come from the Mediterranean area, where they were eaten as a green vegetable as well.
To make chicory "coffee", the taproot is cleaned, then roasted in a slow oven until it is dry throughout. Cool, and grind in a coffee grinder. Prepare like coffee, with about 1/2 tsp. per cup. It's a little more bitter than coffee, but it has no caffeine!
As a vegetable, (which I haven't tried, but I will), the young leaves can be eaten raw; they may be bitter, like dandelion leaves, in which case they can be boiled, changing the water half-way through the cooking, to leach out the bitterness.
It was also believed to be able to open locked doors, according to European folklore. (Wikipedia)