Chicory - Deliana, north west Crete
West Crete Journal, August 2005


Origin: Europe
Chicorium intybus

Chicory or Succory can be found on light sandy soil and is seen on waste land, open borders of fields and by the roadside. It is easily recognized by its tough, twig-like stems, along which are ranged large, bright or light blue flowers similar in size and shape to the Dandelion.

The flowers are in blossom from May to July. However sunny the day, by early afternoon every bloom is closed. Linnaeus used the Chicory in his floral Clock at Upsala, because of its regularity in opening at 5 a.m. and closing at 10 a.m. in that latitude.

There is little doubt that the Cichorium mentioned by Theophrastus as in use amongst the ancients was the wild Chicory, since the names by which the wild plant is known in all the languages of modern Europe are merely corruptions of the original Greek word.  Succory was known to the Romans and eaten by them as a vegetable or in salads, as mentioned by Horace, Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny.

Chicory is highly cultivated, not only as a salad and vegetable, but also for fodder and especially for the sake of its root, which although woody in the wild state,  becomes large and fleshy when cultivated and is employed extensively for blending with coffee. When roasted, it yields 45 to 65 per cent of soluble extract, whereas roasted coffee yields only 21 to 25 per cent.

The young and tender roots can be boiled and eaten with butter like parsnips. The leaves are used in salads, and are superior to dandelion. They may be cut and used from young plants, but are generally blanched otherwise the leaves are bitter.

In Crete, the young leaves - a rich source of vitamin C and iron - are collected from autumn onwards, cleaned and boiled, and served in most Cretan households and restaurants as stamnagáthi.