Chicory is pleasantly (and unusually) bitter in flavour. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine this bitter cooling nature both fortifies the Heart Qi and Blood, and helps to clear Damp-Heat from the Liver, perhaps making it the perfect vegetable for countering post-Christmas blues and overindulgence. High in folate, and several vitamins, its use as a Blood tonic is well deserved.
It comes in 3 main varieties – “Radicchio” type red and variegated varieties (great for adding colour), the confusingly named “Belgian Endive” or “Chicons” (small, pale and mild “forced” varieties), and the “Sugarloaf” types (resembling a pale/tight lettuce, but with much stronger flavour). The root is often found in coffee substitutes, and its high inulin content perhaps explains why it is so good for constipation and gut motility (and intestinal parasites, so farmers tell us!)
Try making a Sugarloaf Chicory Soup:
Dice the whole sugarloaf chicory and sweat it in a large knob of butter. Add a finely diced potato and 3 cups of mild stock, and boil for 10-15 minutes until the potato is cooked. Blend, and season with salt and lots of black pepper. You can serve it with cream, fresh parsley, or garlic croutons if you want to impress your guests, but it doesn’t really need it – it is wonderfully creamy and flavoursome all on its own. Mmmmmm.