nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Chicory – (Cichorium intybus L.)

with 27 comments


Along the Trans-Canada near Jemseg, one colony of Chicory has taken hold.  Its bright sky-blue flowers catch the eye as the usual roadside vegetation rolls by.

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Also known as Blue Sailors and, in French, chicoreé, Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is a tall plant, found along roadsides and in other waste places.

Chicory has basal leaves resembling those of the Dandelion.  When broken, the stem exudes a white milky fluid.

The bright blue flowers of Chicory occur along the length of the almost leafless and somewhat zig-zag stem. Each flower is formed of a central involucre of tiny blue flowers and a disc of larger ray flowers.  The rays are square-cut and fringed.  The flowers follow the sun, closing by noon, or on overcast days.

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Chicory is a useful plant.  Its young leaves are edible as salad greens or as a pot-herb.  The roots can be dried and ground to make a coffee substitute or supplement.  The root of Chicory has soothing properties to balance the edginess caused by caffeine.  The roots of Chicory are large and very deep.  I tried to pull them by hand, but a shovel will be needed to harvest the roots in the compact soil of the roadside.

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When I see these flowers, I am reminded of my grandfather, my mother’s father.  I never knew him, but I have a couple of photographs of him as a young man.   I have made a small study of his mother, my great-grandmother, so I know quite a lot about him.
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The flowers of Chicory remind me of his eyes, since they were the same startling blue.  He was also a tall man, another feature of the plant.

The other name for Chicory, Blue Sailors, also reminds me of my grandfather. He was a sailor, entering the navy when he was only fifteen.  I know from various records that he served on at least two naval vessels, the USS Nebraska and the USS Pensacola.  As so often happens when I see photographs of ancestors, there is a familiarity about his features.

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Blue Sailors

            Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.)

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at the roadside

weeds surge as waves

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on the sameness of ocean,

a buoy lifted,

a sudden swell of Chicory

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tall, like my grandfather,

the blue ice of his eyes

its blunt petals, the square-cut of his jaw

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joined the navy at fifteen

dressed as a sailor, headed for sea

USS Pensacola, USS Nebraska

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his tie, a sapphire ribbon

toothed or frayed

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©  Jane Tims  2012

Warning: 
1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.
 

27 Responses

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  1. I love chicory-its one of my favorite roadside beauties. Ive tried to transplant a few to one of my Wild Garden areas, but no luck yet. beebee

    Liked by 1 person

    beebeesworld

    July 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    • Hi. I ordered seeds and sewed them last fall. No plants yet, but I will be patient. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 22, 2015 at 4:21 pm

  2. Great post Jane. I love the way you started by telling us all about chicory (I don’t think I’ve seen it growing in the wild) and love the way you segued into your grandfather’s eyes. And then the beautiful poem about him.

    btw I’ve been studying my mother’s family for the past twenty years. It’s a fascinating way to learn one’s history.

    Like

    dearrosie

    August 6, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    • Hi Rosie. Family history is addictive. You must see a few people in your museum who are seeking some historical roots? Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      August 7, 2012 at 8:54 am

      • Perhaps because our Museum is an Art Museum I haven’t had any conversations about family history. Yet.

        Like

        dearrosie

        August 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

      • Hi Rosie. I guess you never know when the descendant of an artist might come through! Jane

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        jane tims

        August 8, 2012 at 7:56 am

      • I served someone called Van Gogh and when I commented on the name was told he was a great great nephew of the famous Vincent.

        Like

        dearrosie

        August 8, 2012 at 11:49 am

      • Hi. Very neat! Jane

        Like

        jane tims

        August 9, 2012 at 8:06 am

  3. I love chickory-it grew wild around my house as a kid-ive been meaning to bring some to my house-I still see it on roadsides and fields-so pretty. nice article.

    Like

    beebeesworld

    August 3, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    • Hi. If you go to dig some, take a shovel. The roots are deep and stubborn. Let me know if you get it to transplant. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      August 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

      • that is so true with many wild flowers, it is easy to not get a god root and they die-ii have a shady spot i plant new wild plants in and they seem to do better there-

        Like

        beebeesworld

        August 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

  4. This is truly a thoughtful and considerate contemplation. Your grandfather was a dasher of a man. (And I love chicory – it always makes me happy.)

    Like

    Deborah Carr

    July 26, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    • Hi Deborah. Thanks. I wish I could find the photo of him in his navy uniform… it would make the metaphor much clearer! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 27, 2012 at 7:19 am

  5. Hi Jane. Chicory is one of my favorite summer flowers. 🙂

    Like

    Robin

    July 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    • Hi. It is such a unique color of blue… stands out from quite a distance. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

  6. This looks very familiar to me, living in France – it grows in exactly the same places as you mention (until the road- side strimmers come along that is!)

    Like

    Sonya Chasey

    July 23, 2012 at 6:56 am

    • Hi. I wonder how much of the roadside vegetation I would recognise there? At least I would know one plant! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 23, 2012 at 7:55 am

  7. Wonderful post. I like how you tied the chicory and your grandfather’s blue eyes togther as well as the waves of blue and images of sea. Great job. Your grandfather was a handsome man. I see the family resemblance.

    Like

    Carol Steel

    July 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    • Hi Carol. Thanks! I appreciate your understanding of the poem. I had been thinking about writing a poem connecting the Chicory and my grandfather when I discovered the other name for Chicory… Blue Sailors. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm

  8. Your grandfather was a very handsome man, and even though this photo is black and white, his eyes are still very striking. Apparently chicory is not native to Connecticut, but was “introduced.” I thought it was so very pretty in blue along the roadside. My grandfather had blue eyes, too. The gene skipped a couple of generations and then turned up in my daughter. 🙂

    Like

    Barbara Rodgers

    July 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    • Hi Barabara. I agree he was handsome. His mother was from one of the Pennsylvania German families from Monroe County. I have followed her story out to Laramie, Wyonming where she lived in the late 1890’s. I know you know the lure of family history. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm

  9. Just lovely all around. So THAT’s what chickory is! I love the combination of your grandfather’s story and the description of a beautiful – and useful – blue-flowered plant. Jane

    Like

    Jane Fritz

    July 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    • Hi. Chicory is cropping up along roadways everywhere I go. Next time I go out, I want to take a shovel and dig some roots, so I can try the coffee substitute. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm

  10. Ryan is the spitting image of him. I’ll have to point it out to Heather! Excellent poem Jane.

    Like

    JD

    July 20, 2012 at 10:08 am

    • Hi. I cover up various parts of the photo to see what features we have inherited. Thanks for the comment on the poem. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  11. Hi Jane, I enjoyed your post, as I love the blue chicory too, and how wonderful to interweave a family portrait and poem. Thank you, Ellen

    Like

    Ellen Grace Olinger

    July 20, 2012 at 9:09 am

    • Hi Ellen. Thanks. I appreciate your comment, especially since you ‘interweave’ so expertly…. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm


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