Chicory offers beguiling color into fall
Iwas walking about in Glacier Ridge Metro Park, near the northwest corner of Dublin last week, when I noticed that the color is beginning to fade from the countryside.
Right now the color is coming from goldenrod, New England asters and the ever-present chicory that is still blooming its heart out.
A few days later I was talking to Michael Bergman, a farmer friend who lives in Madison County. I told him how enamored I was with the sky-blue color of the chicory flowers and he told me how they are still making his pastures beautiful to stroll through.
Chicory is not native to the United States. It was brought here by immigrants from Europe who used its ground roots as a substitute for coffee.
Then Bergman, who is of German ancestry, told me a lovely German folk tale concerning chicory.
He said chicory was long used through the generations as a folk medicine in Germany. It also spawned this lovely fable.
Back in the feudal days, Germany was not one big country, but divided into many provinces, each with its own leader.
In one of those provinces lived a young man and a young woman who were very much in love.
However, the local prince conscripted the young man into the army that he was preparing to send into battle.
The young woman told her love that she would be waiting for him along the road home and that she would be wearing a blue dress.
But, alas, the young man was killed in battle and never returned to his love.
The young woman is still waiting there for him, however, along the roadside. We all have seen her every time we have seen chicory blooming.
So please don’t consider chicory to be a weed like some people do. Now we know it is more than that.
Chicory played a role in the history of this country because the French Canadian voyagers always carried it with them to use as coffee when they camped.
They also planted it as they journeyed in their huge canoes carrying furs and trade goods around the Great Lakes and along their portages. That’s why it is so widespread.
Bergman said the Indians referred to chicory as “the bloom of the white man’s trail.”
Bergman also said chicory is still sold quite a bit in Louisiana and that has something to do with the Civil War.
Back then the two ports of entry for coffee were New York and New Orleans, but during the war the Union blockaded New Orleans.
He said perhaps from habit, who knows, but after the war some people, back in the bayous, continued to drink chicory as a substitute for coffee.
The chicory flower blooms well into fall. It isn’t native to the United States, but was brought here by European immigrants. The plant was often used as a substitute for coffee.