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Common chicory
Illustration Cichorium intybus0 clean.jpg
1885 illustration [1]
Cichorium intybus-alvesgaspar1.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cichorieae
Genus: Cichorium
C. intybus
Binomial name
Cichorium intybus
Synonyms [2] [3]

Common chicory, Cichorium intybus, [4] is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink. Many varieties are cultivated for salad leaves, chicons (blanched buds), or roots (var. sativum), which are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and food additive. In the 21st century, inulin, an extract from chicory root, has been used in food manufacturing as a sweetener and source of dietary fiber. [5]


Chicory is grown as a forage crop for livestock. [6] It lives as a wild plant on roadsides in its native Europe, and is now common in North America, China, and Australia, where it has become widely naturalized. [7] [8] [9] "Chicory" is also the common name in the United States for curly endive ( Cichorium endivia ); these two closely related species are often confused. [10]


Common chicory is also known as blue daisy, blue dandelion, blue sailors, blue weed, bunk, coffeeweed, cornflower, hendibeh, horseweed, ragged sailors, succory, wild bachelor's buttons, and wild endive. [11] (Note: "Cornflower" is commonly applied to Centaurea cyanus .) Common names for varieties of var. foliosum include endive, radicchio, radichetta, Belgian endive, French endive, red endive, sugarloaf, and witloof (or witlof).


When flowering, chicory has a tough, grooved, and more or less hairy stem, from 30 to 100 cm (10 to 40 in) tall. The leaves are stalked, lanceolate and unlobed. The flower heads are 2 to 4 cm (34 to 1 12 inches) wide, and usually light purple or lavender (see picture) and it has been described as light blue, rarely white or pink. Of the two rows of involucral bracts, the inner is longer and erect, the outer is shorter and spreading. It flowers from July until October.

Culinary uses

Root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) has been cultivated in Europe as a coffee substitute. [12] The roots are baked, roasted, ground, and used as an additive, especially in the Mediterranean region (where the plant is native). As a coffee additive, it is also mixed in Indian filter coffee, and in parts of Southeast Asia, South Africa, and the southern United States, particularly in New Orleans. In France a mixture of 60% chicory and 40% coffee is sold as Ricoré. It has been more widely used during economic crises such as the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe. Chicory, with sugar beet and rye, was used as an ingredient of the East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), introduced during the "East German coffee crisis" of 1976–79. It is also added to coffee in Spanish, Greek, Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian cuisines. [13]

Some beer brewers use roasted chicory to add flavor to stouts (commonly expected to have a coffee-like flavor). Others have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to augment the hops, making a witlofbier, from the Dutch name for the plant.

Leaf chicory


Wild chicory leaves usually have a bitter taste. Their bitterness is appreciated in certain cuisines, such as in the Ligurian and Apulian regions of Italy and also in the southern part of India. In Ligurian cuisine, wild chicory leaves are an ingredient of preboggion and in Greek cuisine of horta ; in the Apulian region, wild chicory leaves are combined with fava bean puree in the traditional local dish fave e cicorie selvatiche. [14] In Albania, the leaves are used as a spinach substitute, mainly served simmered and marinated in olive oil, or as ingredient for fillings of byrek .

By cooking and discarding the water, the bitterness is reduced, after which the chicory leaves may be sautéed with garlic, anchovies, and other ingredients. In this form, the resulting greens might be combined with pasta [15] or accompany meat dishes. [16]


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: [17]

  • 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. It is largely used in Italy in different varieties, the most famous being the ones from Treviso (known as radicchio rosso di Treviso), [18] [19] from Verona (radicchio di Verona), and Chioggia (radicchio di Chioggia), which are classified as an IGP. [20] It is also common in Greece.[ citation needed ]
  • Sugarloaf looks rather like cos lettuce, with tightly packed leaves. [21]
Witloof, Belgian endive Witlof en wortel.jpg
Witloof, Belgian endive
  • Belgian endive is known in Dutch as witloof or witlof ("white leaf"), endive or (very rarely) witloof in the United States, [22] indivia in Italy, endivias in Spain, chicory in the UK, as witlof in Australia, endive in France, and chicon in parts of northern France, in Wallonia and (in French) in Luxembourg. It has a small head of cream-colored, bitter leaves. It is grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight 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, so to preserve its pale color and delicate flavor. 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 can 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 at the Botanical Garden of Brussels in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium. [23] Today France is the largest producer of endive. [24]
  • Catalogna chicory (Cichorium intybus var. foliosum), also known as puntarelle, includes a whole subfamily (some varieties from Belgian endive and some from radicchio) [25] of chicory and is used throughout Italy.
Leaves unlobed and pointed Cichorium endiva.jpg
Leaves unlobed and pointed
Inflorescences of a blue-flowered form, showing the two rows of bracts Wegwarte Cichorium intybus.jpg
Inflorescences of a blue-flowered form, showing the two rows of bracts

Although leaf chicory is often called "endive", true endive (Cichorium endivia) is a different species in the genus, distinct from Belgian endive.

Chicory root and inulin

Around 1970, it was found that the root contains up to 20% inulin, a polysaccharide similar to starch. Inulin is mainly found in the plant family Asteraceae as a storage carbohydrate (for example Jerusalem artichoke, dahlia, yacon, etc.). It is used as a sweetener in the food industry with a sweetening power 10% that of sucrose [26] and is sometimes added to yogurts as a prebiotic. Inulin is also gaining popularity as a source of soluble dietary fiber and functional food. [27]

Chicory root extract is a dietary supplement or food additive produced by mixing dried, ground chicory root with water, and removing the insoluble fraction by filtration and centrifugation. Other methods may be used to remove pigments and sugars. It is used as a source of soluble fiber. Fresh chicory root typically contains, by dry weight, 68% inulin, 14% sucrose, 5% cellulose, 6% protein, 4% ash, and 3% other compounds. Dried chicory root extract contains, by weight, about 98% inulin and 2% other compounds. [28] Fresh chicory root may contain between 13 and 23% inulin, by total weight. [29]

Agents responsible for bitterness

The bitter substances are primarily the two sesquiterpene lactones, lactucin and lactucopicrin. Other ingredients are aesculetin, aesculin, cichoriin, umbelliferone, scopoletin, 6,7-dihydrocoumarin, and further sesquiterpene lactones and their glycosides. [30]

Traditional medicine

Chicory greens, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 96 kJ (23 kcal)
4.7 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Dietary fiber 4 g
0.3 g
1.7 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Vitamin A equiv.
286 μg
3430 μg
10300 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.06 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.1 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.5 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
1.159 mg
Vitamin B6
0.105 mg
Folate (B9)
110 μg
Vitamin C
24 mg
Vitamin E
2.26 mg
Vitamin K
297.6 μg
Minerals Quantity%DV
100 mg
0.9 mg
30 mg
0.429 mg
47 mg
420 mg
45 mg
0.42 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Belgian endive (witloof), raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 71 kJ (17 kcal)
4 g
Dietary fiber 3.1 g
0.1 g
0.9 g
Vitamins Quantity%DV
Thiamine (B1)
0.062 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.027 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.16 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.145 mg
Vitamin B6
0.042 mg
Folate (B9)
37 μg
Vitamin C
2.8 mg
Minerals Quantity%DV
19 mg
0.24 mg
10 mg
0.1 mg
26 mg
211 mg
2 mg
0.16 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Chicory root contains essential oils similar to those found in plants in the related genus Tanacetum . [31] In traditional medicine, chicory has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies. [32]


Chicory is highly digestible for ruminants and has a low fiber concentration. [33] Chicory roots are an "excellent substitute for oats" for horses due to their protein and fat content. [34] Chicory contains a low quantity of reduced tannins [33] that may increase protein utilization efficiency in ruminants.

Some tannins reduce intestinal parasites. [35] [36] Dietary chicory may be toxic to internal parasites, with studies of ingesting chicory by farm animals having lower worm burdens, leading to its use as a forage supplement. [37] [38] [39] Although chicory might have originated in France, Italy, and India, [40] much development of chicory for use with livestock has taken place in New Zealand. [41]

Forage chicory varieties

Developed in New Zealand, Grasslands Puna is well adapted to different climates, being grown from Alberta, Canada, to New Mexico and Florida. It is resistant to bolting, which leads to high nutrient levels in the leaves in spring. It also has high resistance to grazing.
A variety from France used for human consumption and also for wildlife plots, where animals such as deer might graze. It is very cold-hardy, and being lower in tannins than other forage varieties, is suitable for human consumption.
Choice has been bred for high winter and early-spring growth activity, and lower amounts of lactucin and lactone, which are believed to taint milk. It is also use for seeding deer wildlife plots.
Oasis was bred for increased lactone rates for the forage industry, and for higher resistance to fungal diseases such as Sclerotinia .[ clarification needed ]
This variety is more winter-active than most others, which leads to greater persistence and longevity.
A New Zealand variety, it is used as a planting companion for forage brassicas. More prone to early flowering than other varieties, it has higher crowns more susceptible to overbrowsing.
A United States variety, it is very similar to Puna.


The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae " ("As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance"). [42] In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importation of coffee into Prussia, leading to the development of a coffee substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795, 22 to 24 factories of this type were in Brunswick. [43] [44] Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779 [45] as the "chicoree", which the French cultivated as a pot herb. In Napoleonic Era France, chicory frequently appeared as an adulterant in coffee, or as a coffee substitute. [46] Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.

The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time.[ citation needed ] Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.

In the United States, chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. [47] By the 1840s, the port of New Orleans was the second-largest importer of coffee (after New York). [46] Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans, thereby creating a long-standing tradition. [46]

A common meal in Rome, puntarelle , is made with chicory sprouts. [48] The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that chicory is a native plant of western Asia, North Africa, and Europe. [4]

Chicory is also mentioned in certain silk-growing texts. The primary caretaker of the silkworms, the "silkworm mother", should not eat or even touch it.[ citation needed ]

The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the Blue Flower (e.g. in German language Blauwarte ≈ blue lookout by the wayside). It could open locked doors, according to European folklore. [49]

See also

Related Research Articles

Endive leaf vegetables belonging to the genus Cichorium

Endive is a leaf vegetable belonging to the genus Cichorium, which includes several similar, bitter, leafed vegetables. Species include Cichorium endivia, Cichorium pumilum, and Cichorium intybus. Common chicory includes types such as radicchio, puntarelle, and Belgian endive.

Jerusalem artichoke Species of sunflower native to eastern North America

The Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple, is a species of sunflower native to central North America. It grows wild in eastern and western North America but is considered an introduced species. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable.

Inulin chemical compound

Inulins are a group of naturally occurring polysaccharides produced by many types of plants, industrially most often extracted from chicory. The inulins belong to a class of dietary fibers known as fructans. Inulin is used by some plants as a means of storing energy and is typically found in roots or rhizomes. Most plants that synthesize and store inulin do not store other forms of carbohydrate such as starch. In the United States in 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved inulin as a dietary fiber ingredient used to improve the nutritional value of manufactured food products. Using inulin to measure kidney function is the "gold standard" for comparison with other means of estimating glomerular filtration rate.

Radicchio variety of chicory (Cichorium intybus), a leaf vegetable

Radicchio is a perennial cultivated form of leaf chicory sometimes known as Italian chicory because of its common use in Italian cuisine. It is grown as a leaf vegetable and usually has colorful white-veined red leaves that form a head. Radicchio has a bitter and spicy taste which mellows if it is grilled or roasted.

<i>Cichorium</i> genus of plants

Cichorium is a genus of plants in the dandelion tribe within the sunflower family. The genus includes two cultivated species commonly known as chicory or endive, plus several wild species.

Mesclun salad mix

Mesclun is a mix of assorted small young salad greens that originated in Provence, France. The traditional mix includes chervil, arugula, leafy lettuces and endive, while the term mesclun may also refer to a blend that might include some or all of these four and baby spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, frisée, mizuna, mâche, radicchio, sorrel, or other fresh leaf vegetables.

<i>Lactuca virosa</i> species of plant

Lactuca virosa is a plant in the Lactuca (lettuce) genus, often ingested for its mild analgesic and sedative effects. It is related to common lettuce, and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, laitue vireuse, opium lettuce, poisonous lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce or rakutu-karyumu-so.

The name coffeeweed or coffee weed may refer to various plants used as coffee substitute, including:

Lactucin chemical compound

Lactucin is a bitter substance that forms a white crystalline solid and belongs to the group of sesquiterpene lactones. It is found in some varieties of lettuce and is an ingredient of lactucarium. It has been shown to have analgesic and sedative properties. It has also shown some antimalarial effects. It is also found in dandelion coffee.

Lactucopicrin sesquiterpene lactone, with bitter flavor

Lactucopicrin (Intybin) is a bitter substance that has a sedative and analgesic effect, acting on the central nervous system. It is a sesquiterpene lactone, and is a component of lactucarium, derived from the plant Lactuca virosa, as well as being found in some related plants such as Cichorium intybus. It is also found in dandelion coffee.

<i>Cichorium endivia</i> species of plant

Cichorium endivia is a species of flowering plant belonging to the genus Cichorium, which is widely cultivated as one of the species of similar bitter-leafed vegetables known as endive and escarole.

Coffee substitute non-coffee product, usually without caffeine, that is used to imitate coffee

Coffee substitutes are non-coffee products, usually without caffeine, that are used to imitate coffee. Coffee substitutes can be used for medical, economic and religious reasons, or simply because coffee is not readily available. Roasted grain beverages are common substitutes for coffee.

<i>Pseudomonas cichorii</i> species of bacterium

Pseudomonas cichorii is a Gram-negative soil bacterium that is pathogenic to plants. It has a wide host range, and can have an important economical impact on lettuce, celery and chrysanthemum crops. P. cichorii was first isolated on endives, from which it derives its name. It produces 6-aminopenicillanic acid. Based on 16S rRNA analysis, P. cichorii has been placed in the P. syringae group.

<i>Taraxacum</i> genus of plants

Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, which consists of species commonly known as dandelions. The genus is native to Eurasia and North America, but the two commonplace species worldwide, T. officinale and T. erythrospermum, were introduced from Europe and now propagate as wildflowers. Both species are edible in their entirety. The common name dandelion is given to members of the genus. Like other members of the family Asteraceae, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. In part due to their abundance along with being a generalist species, dandelions are one of the most vital early spring nectar sources for a wide host of pollinators. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

Dandelion coffee a tisane made from the root of the dandelion plant

Dandelion 'coffee' is a tisane made from the root of the dandelion plant. The roasted dandelion root pieces and the beverage have some resemblance to coffee in appearance and taste, and it is thus commonly considered a coffee substitute.

Chicoric acid chemical compound

Chicoric acid is a hydroxycinnamic acid, an organic compound of the phenylpropanoid class and occurs in a variety of plant species. It is a derivative of both caffeic acid and tartaric acid.

Blanching (horticulture) technique used in growing vegetables

Blanching is a technique used in vegetable growing. Young shoots of a plant are covered to exclude light to prevent photosynthesis and the production of chlorophyll, and thus remain pale in color. Different methods used include covering with soil or with solid materials such as board or terracotta pots, or growing the crop indoors in darkened conditions. Blanched vegetables generally tend to have a more delicate flavor and texture compared to those that are not blanched, but blanching can also cause the vegetables to be lower in vitamin A.

Enza Zaden is a vegetable breeding company from Enkhuizen in North Holland, which produces vegetable seeds for the professional market. The company belongs to the ten biggest vegetable breeding companies in the world and has over thirty subsidiaries and over 2,000 employees. Beside the main crops: tomato, pepper, cucumber and lettuce, Enza Zaden also breeds melon, onion, and many other vegetables. "Enza" is an abbreviation from the old name "Enkhuizer Zaadwinkel"


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