nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Blue Sailors

Chicory – (Cichorium intybus L.)

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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.
 
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