Last year I wrote a post on chicory uses...and it was pretty boring 😉 I was just starting to dive more into foraging and you can tell that I didn’t know much of what I was talking about. I still don’t, but I like to pretend I do. So here I am again, talking about chicory root, what it’s good for, and how I’ve been using it in my hot chocolate.
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10 uses for chicory root
Usually, you’d harvest chicory root in the fall after the flowers and foliage die back. But I always end up harvesting it in the summer, around the solstice, because it’s everywhere and after the foliage dies back I can’t find it anymore! I’m going to try and save some seeds this year, then grow them in a bucket so I know exactly where my chicory root is every year in the fall. PS. remember to read the disclaimer!
The easiest way to identify chicory is by the flowers–I’ve noticed that they’re open more often in the morning on a sunny day and they close up by the hot afternoon. I had no idea that chicory isn’t actually a native plant because I see it everywhere! It comes from Europe.
So what is chicory root good for? You’ve got to know if you’re going to go through all the work of harvesting and processing it!
- Chicory protects the liver
- It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which is awesome because the root of all disease is inflammation. By reducing inflammation you can effectively reduce your chances of disease!
- The root is used as a diuretic (helps kidneys!)
- and a laxative that can even be used with children
- Chicory contains Vitamin C
- It also contains prebiotics (inulin//not the same as insulin) which “promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.” (defined here)
- So basically, it’s great for the digestive system
- Like I mentioned, Chicory root contains inulin, but also antioxidants that help protect against heart disease
- it is antibacterial and helps to support the immune system
- and it’s been used to help people with achy joints
How to process chicory root
I’ll be honest, the amount of work that goes into foraging and preparing chicory root for a coffee replacement is time-consuming, but it’s something I love doing. I love learning about the local plants and how to use them! Especially since I’m not great at growing things yet 🙂 If you don’t want to harvest your own chicory root you can buy some here. If you’re not into chicory tea or coffee then you can boil the young roots and eat them like parsnips…which I’ve never actually tried.
It’s pretty easy to harvest chicory root after it rains when the ground is still damp, but not super wet–the clay here in Missouri makes it hard to pull things out of the ground if it is too wet. Or maybe that’s just me. So a couple of days after it rains I’ll go out and grab some roots. Chicory has a long taproot, so the root goes straight down into the ground for like, ever. Basically, I’ll grab the chicory by the base and move the plant in a circle to loosen the root, then pull it straight up and it will slide right out! I feel like the kid who pulls the sword out of the stone every time.
After harvesting your roots you detach them from the top–you can boil the leaves and eat them in the summer, but mine just mostly go back to the dirt. I want you to know that all of the roots that I’m holding made about a cup of roasted chicory root. Crazy, right? I thought I had harvested SO much.
Last year I read about a few ways to harvest and process chicory root for roasting. Some people chop the root up with a knife, but I tried that last year and I broke my knife. And guys, I have good knives. The inner part of the root is hard. If possible, I suggest chopping, but if not, try the next method:
Another post suggested peeling the root from the inner core, so that’s what I do. It takes awhile, but my knives are spared! You don’t use an actual peeler, you just peel the skin or bark or whatever you want to call it from the inner core. Once the roots are peeled you roast it in your oven at 350 degrees F for 2-3 hours or until the pieces snap. Let it cool then grind it up in a blender or use a mortar and pestle. I used a blender but this makes more of a powder than granules.
You can check out my really awful video from last year here:
In the video, I talk about letting the root dry out a bit, but I have found that’s actually unnecessary. Be cautious when using chicory root if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding. (source).
How to make chicory root hot chocolate
This is how I’ve been using my chicory root lately and I looooove it. I mean, summer has just begun and I’m in my house drinking hot chocolate every morning? It’s fine.
- 1 tsp roasted chicory root (again if you don’t want to forage your own you can buy it here)
- 1 tsp dandelion root (roasted or non…I use non because I didn’t know it could be roasted. Again you can buy some here)
- molasses to taste (I have a cup of molasses that I added one drop of ginger essential oil to and I use that for this drink)
- 1-2 TBSP semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- Milk of choice
I boil one cup of water on the stove, then steep my chicory and dandelion roots for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I heat 1/2 cup of milk on the stove along with the chocolate chips until they are melted. Then I use a coffee filter to strain the chicory/dandelion mixture, pour it in a mug, and add the milk mixture and molasses.
The easier version is just to combine everything but the chocolate chips and molasses in a pot, bring almost to a boil, steep your roots, strain, and then add the chocolate chips and molasses. You’ll find a method that works for you!
I feel like I need to add a little FYI: this is much different than commercially made hot chocolate–it does have a slightly bitter taste depending on how much chicory you use and how much you sweeten it. But I’d love to know if you try it!
- The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines
- Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine
- Midwest Foraging