Chicory of­fers be­guil­ing color into fall

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - JOHN SWITZER klecker@dis­patch.com

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.

[JOHN SWITZER]

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.

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