Posted in Kafevend Blog
Cichorium intybus, or chicory as you're more likely to call it, was first grown thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt, before spreading around the Mediterranean. It is one of the earliest plants mentioned in historical sources; the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, endearingly known as Horace in the English speaking world, mentioned it during the late 1st century BCE. The plant has since spread throughout Europe, and has also made its way to North America.
Chicory is a versatile plant and has been used for a number of things over the years. Perhaps the simplest use of the plant is adding the leaves to salads and pasta dishes. They are typically bitter, but the bitterness can be removed by blanching them. It is also used as forage for livestock, thanks to a number of suitable qualities present in it. The large root can be eaten, but another use for the root is the production of a coffee additive or subsitute.
It is not known when exactly the chicory root was first used to create a psuedo coffee, but by the Napoleonic Era it had made a niche for itself amongst various armies and besieged cities looking for their coffee fix. It has since been used as a coffee substitute in several armies, notably the Confederates during the American Civil War and the British during World War 2 with their Camp Coffee.
Whilst chicory has always been a feature during times of economic crisis such as the Great Depression and World War 2, it has also been used by the more unscrupulous type of businessman to secretly pad out coffee!