Chicory is an interesting and highly nutritious vegetable. A relative of endive, it has many culinary uses – as an addition to salads, served with dips, sautéed or blanched – but it is mainly known for its association with coffee. When the roots are dried, roasted and ground they make a delicious, coffee-like drink with a robust, roasted flavor. Caffeine- free, it is often blended with coffee to cut down on the amount of caffeine. Because it is more water-soluble than coffee, you don’t need much, making it an inexpensive beverage.
Chicory was brought to North America from Europe in the 1700’s and often served as a coffee substitute when coffee was scarce or too expensive. It was a favorite drink of the French in Louisiana during the Civil War and is still popular at New Orleans’ famed Café du Monde. It was cultivated along the Nile for thousands of years and was used by the ancient Romans and Egyptians to help cleanse the blood.
Among its many health benefits, chicory is one of the richest sources of vitamin A, important for eye health, and contains Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. It is a natural laxative, is useful in treating liver disorders, helps lower cholesterol and is a natural sedative and anti-inflammatory for the nervous system. Juiced with other vegetables, its nourishing properties are increased.
One of the keys to good health is variety. No one fruit or vegetable does it all. In fact health experts recommend the rainbow method, where the goal is to eat something of all colors most days. So, as I sip my delicious cup of chicory, I know I am getting different nutritional benefits than from my usual cup of green tea.
Vary your morning routine and try a cup of chicory. Drink it with milk, mix it with coffee or cocoa or try it plain, you’ll be surprised!
You can find chicory (or endive) in the produce section of most grocery stores. Whole Foods carries the chicory coffee-like drink as I imagine conventional stores do as well. Just ask your grocer!
Information compiled from www.cafedumonde.com, www.coffeetea.about.com, www.theepicentre.com
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