Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, is an erect, somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant with bright blue flowers. Various varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or for roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive. It is also grown as a forage crop for livestock. It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and in North America and Australia, where it has become naturalized.
“Chicory” is also the common name in the United States for curly endive (Cichorium endivia); these two closely related species are often confused.
Common chicory is also known as blue sailors, succory, and coffee weed. It is also called cornflower, although that name is more commonly applied to Centaurea cyanus. Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive,sugarloaf or witloof.
When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, and more or less hairy stem, from 30 to 100 centimetres (10 to 40 in) tall.
The leaves are stalked, lanceolate and unlobed.
The flower heads are 2 to 4 centimetres (0.79 to 1.6 in) wide, and usually bright blue, rarely white or pink. There are two rows of involucral bracts; the inner are longer and erect, the outer are shorter and spreading. It flowers from July until October.
The achenes have no pappus (feathery hairs), but do have toothed scales on top
Wild chicory leaves are usually bitter. Their bitterness is appreciated in certain cuisines, such as in the Liguria and Puglia regions of Italy and also in Catalonia (Spain), in Greece and in Turkey.In Ligurian cuisine the wild chicory leaves are an ingredient of preboggion and in Greek cuisine of horta; in the Puglian region wild chicory leaves are combined with fava bean puree in the traditional local dish Fave e Cicorie Selvatiche.
By cooking and discarding the water the bitterness is reduced, after which the chicory leaves may be sauteed with garlic, anchovies and other ingredients. In this form the resulting greens might be combined with pasta or accompany meat dishes.
Chicory may be cultivated for its leaves, usually eaten raw as salad leaves. Cultivated chicory is generally divided into three types, of which there are many varieties:
Radicchio usually has variegated red or red and green leaves. Some only refer to the white-veined red leaved type as radicchio. Also known as red endive and red chicory. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. It can also be used to add color and zest to salads.
Sugarloaf looks rather like cos lettuce, with tightly packed leaves.
Belgian endive is also known as French endive, witlof in Dutch or witloof in Belgian Dutch, witloof in the United States, chicory in the UK, as witlof in Australia,endive in France, and chicon in parts of northern France and in Wallonia. It has a small head of cream-coloured, bitter leaves. It is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight in order to prevent the leaves from turning green and opening up (etiolation). The plant has to be kept just below the soil surface as it grows, only showing the very tip of the leaves. It is often sold wrapped in blue paper to protect it from light and so preserve its pale colour and delicate flavour. The smooth, creamy white leaves may be served stuffed, baked, boiled, cut and cooked in a milk sauce, or simply cut raw. The tender leaves are slightly bitter; the whiter the leaf, the less bitter the taste. The harder inner part of the stem at the bottom of the head should be cut out before cooking to prevent bitterness. Belgium exports chicon/witloof to over 40 different countries. The technique for growing blanched endives was accidentally discovered in the 1850s in Schaerbeek, Belgium. Endive is cultivated for culinary use by cutting the leaves from the growing plant, then keeping the living stem and root in a dark place. A new bud develops but without sunlight it is white and lacks the bitterness of the sun-exposed foliage. Today France is the largest producer of endive.
Although leaf chicory is often called “endive”, true endive (Cichorium endivia) is a different species in the genus