Chicory - Cichorium intybus

Chicory - Cichorium intybus


Chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant found throughout the world that can reach a height of one and a half meters. In Italy it is widespread with the exception of the Tyrrhenian and southern areas where it is less so. It is a rather rustic plant that resists different types of climate and has no particular cultivation needs. The root is an enlarged rhizome which, in the final part, becomes a dark colored taproot; the aerial part of the stem can be more or less erect, very branched and tomentose. The leaves that develop at the base of the plant have an almost always irregular outline and come together in a rosette, while the smaller ones, on the other hand, have a serrated outline and a spear shape; they can be smooth or hairy, have a green color and reach a length of about twenty-five centimeters. The flowers of chicory are blue or white, hermaphrodite and formed by androecium, gynoecium, chalice and corolla. The fruit of this plant is a more or less oval shaped achene with some edges, smooth and very small in size.

Environment and exposure

As previously mentioned, chicory has no particular climatic needs, it likes a few hours of sun a day and is able to withstand even very harsh temperatures. We can find chicory up to 1200 meters above sea level, but also along paths, uncultivated or cultivated land, stony ground or covered by rubble, etc.


As far as the soil is concerned, chicory doesn't ask for much; it adapts to various types of soil, calcareous, siliceous etc., the important thing is that it has a very good drainage system, before sowing it is always good to enrich the soil with fertilizer preferably with humus or manure, being careful the quantities because an excessive dose of manure could burn the transplants or compromise the seeds.

Sowing and transplanting

Chicory reproduces by seed. The sowing period differs depending on the variety: if we grow a cut chicory, sowing will be carried out by broadcasting and it will be possible to do it all year round, trying to avoid moments with very cold temperatures; if the cultivated chicory is from the head, we will sow in April or May directly in the ground, in seedbeds until the month of August.

Before proceeding with sowing, the soil must be worked at a certain depth and fertilized with mature manure and mineral fertilizer. When the new seedlings have developed about ten leaves, they will be ready to be transplanted at a distance of about thirty centimeters from each other and forty centimeters between one row and another.

To have very compact and crunchy tufts you will have to proceed with forcing, which consists in cutting the young roots and covering them with damp earth inside a container. After about thirty days you will have very crunchy white leaves.


Chicory needs a good supply of regular and constant water.


As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, before sowing the soil must be fertilized with mature manure. During the development phase of the seedlings it will be advisable to administer calcium nitrate (15 gr./mq).


The harvesting method also varies according to the type of chicory. The cutting one is collected by making a cut with a very sharp knife a couple of centimeters from the ground; the one from the head will be harvested leaving a little root.


The chicory flowers bloom between the months of July and October; generally they are blue in color but there are varieties with white flowers. The characteristic of these flowers is to open in the early morning and close again during the afternoon-evening. These flowers are hermaphroditic and have a calyx with very small sepals, a corolla made up of five petals, the androecium with five stamens and the gynoecium. Pollination takes place thanks to bees.

Diseases and parasites

Chicory is often the victim of root and leaf rot, to avoid this inconvenience, when watering it will be necessary to be careful not to wet the leaves and roots. Other enemies of the leaves are aphids and snails, while those of the roots can be the grillotalpa and the beetles.


We can distinguish chicory in three varieties: cut, colored leaves, leaves and stems.

Chicory for cutting: it is a variety that can be grown all year round, paying attention to the months with very low temperatures. It is widely used in the kitchen to prepare salads. The best known names are: Spadona, broad-leaved and Migliorata.

Chicory with colored leaves: it is radicchio. This variety is sown during the months of June and July and harvested during the autumn-winter season. Some names are: Rosso di Treviso, Variegato di Chioggia and Rosso di Verona.

Chicory from leaves and stems: the sowing of this variety takes place in the months of July and August; yes, the roots are eaten. Let's remember: chicory from Brussels, Brabant, Sugar Loaf, etc.


Chicory is used to purify and detoxify the intestine, liver and kidneys; the roots of this plant can be useful as a digestive, laxative and to lower blood sugar levels. A decoction of the leaves can be used to make compresses on red skin.

There are two types of chicory plants. Whitloof is grown for its large root, which is used to make extra coffee. She may also be forced to use the tender white leaves called Belgian endive. Chicory is grown for the leaves, which can be narrow-headed or clustered. The best way to harvest chicory is to harvest it very young, before it becomes bitter.

There are many varieties of each type of chicory.

The chicory plants to grow are Whitloof:

  • Daliva
  • Flash
  • Zoom
  • Red from Treviso
  • Red of Verona
  • Giulio
  • Firebird


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Description
    • 2.1 Roots
    • 2.2 Barrel
    • 2.3 Leaves
    • 2.4 Inflorescence
    • 2.5 Flowers
    • 2.6 Fruits
  • 3 Distribution and habitat
  • 4 Phytosociology
  • 5 Systematics
    • 5.1 Variability
    • 5.2 Hybrids
    • 5.3 Synonyms
    • 5.4 Similar species
  • 6 Uses
    • 6.1 Pharmacy
    • 6.2 Kitchen
      • 6.2.1 Horticultural varieties
    • 6.3 Industry
    • 6.4 Cultivation
      • 6.4.1 Adversity
  • 7 Image gallery
  • 8 Notes
  • 9 Bibliography
  • 10 Other projects
  • 11 External links

For the generic name (Cichorium) of this plant it is difficult to find an etymology. This is probably an ancient Arabic name that might sound like Chikouryeh.

It seems (according to other texts) that it derives from an Egyptian name Kichorion, or perhaps even from the juxtaposition of two terms Kio (= i) e chorion (= field) the ancient Greeks for example called this plant kichora but also kichòria or kichòreia. It could therefore be that the Arabs took the name from the Greeks, but it is not certain.

The difficulty in finding the origin of the plant's name lies in the fact that it has been known since the earliest times of human history. It is mentioned for example in Papyrus of Ebers (about 1550 BC) and Pliny the Elder himself in his writings mentioned this plant as known in ancient Egypt, the Greek doctor Galen advised it against liver diseases without counting all the references in Roman times.

The specific epithet (intybus) comes from the Latin in turn derived from the Greek éntybon [1] which indicated a herb similar to chicory (now generically called "scariola herb"). The scientific binomial was definitively fixed by the Swedish botanist and naturalist Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) (1707 - 1778) in the publication Species Plantarum of 1753, however, this plant was called variously: Intubum sylvestre or Intubum sylvestris only shortly before Linnaeus did the constant use of the proper name of Cichorium.

The British call this plant chicory, the French call it endive (witloof) but also Chicorée and the Germans Wurzelzichorie or Cichoriensalat but also Wegwarte.

Common chicory reaches a maximum height of 1.5 m (minimum 20 cm). The biological cycle is perennial, but sometimes even annual in the first year a basal rosette of leaves appears, while the flower stem appears only in the second year of the plant's life. The biological form of the species is scapose hemicryptophyte (H scap): that is, it is a perennial plant with buds placed at ground level with an elongated and not very leafy stem.

Roots Edit

Trunk Edit

  • Underground part: the underground part consists of an enlarged rhizome ending in a tapered tap root (conical), dark brown in color, the rhizome is also rich in bitter lattice vessels.
  • Epigeal part: the aerial part is erect (sometimes also prostrate or zigzagging) with a spreading branchiness its surface is covered with bristly hairs facing downwards and the inside is hollow.

Leaves Edit

  • Basal leaves: the basal leaves form a rosette and are oblanceolate and pinnatifid with snarled margins (rarely whole) the segments are more or less triangular.
  • Cauline leaves: the cauline leaves are smaller than the basal ones, but they always have the lanceolate shape with the toothed-lobed margin (or rarely whole), however progressively whole towards the top they are sessile (and also amplessicauli, but always towards the high) and alternately available along the stem.

The leaves are born during the autumn, last during the winter, but dry up immediately at the next flowering, so it is easy to find plants with branches that only flowers. The leaf page can be glabrous (for cultivated plants or for those found in grassy places) or very hairy (in spontaneous ones, especially in dry and arid climates). The color of the leaves is dark green, on the veins they can be suffused with red. Dimensions of the leaves: width 3 - 5 cm length 10 - 25 cm.

Inflorescence Edit

The inflorescence is formed by several flowers gathered in flower heads (almost sessile or pedunculated - this is a dimorphic aspect of the plant) arranged at the axil of the leaves. The structure of the flower heads is that typical of Asteraceae: a peduncle supports a cylindrical envelope formed by several scales that protect the receptacle on which the ligulate type flowers are inserted the other type of flowers, the tubular ones, normally present in the Asteraceae, in this species they are absent. In fact it is part of the subfamily of the Cichoroideae, in the past called Liguliflorae which is characterized only by the presence of ligulate flowers.

The scales (or bracts) in total are from 10 to 15 arranged in two series and the external ones are short, oval and patent (in total there are 5 bracts), while the internal ones (from 8 to 10 bracts) are twice as long. oblong shape - lanceolate, erect and conniving. The shape of the scales is lanceolate - oval or lanceolate - linear with scariosal margins and obtuse apex. The receptacle is flat, bare or slightly hairy, but still pockmarked. The flower heads (numerous from 8 to 25, possibly gathered in groups of 2 - 3) in this plant are photosensitive, therefore they close and open with the sunlight (and of course with bad weather). Size of the flower heads: width 2 - 3 cm size of the peduncles: 0 - 2 mm, or 12 - 85 mm (see above) dimension of the shell: width 3 mm length 11 mm. Size of the external scales: 5 mm.

Flowers Edit

The flowers are tetra-cyclic (calyx - corolla - androceus - gynoecium), pentamers and hermaphrodites, the color of the flowers is light blue (there is also a white - almost pink variant). The flowers open early in the morning while they are closed late in the afternoon.

In general, the morphological characters of the flowers of these plants can be summarized as follows:

  • Floral formula:K 0, C (5), A (5), G 2 below
  • Calyx: the sepals are reduced to a crown of scales.
  • Corolla: the petals are 5 with the lower portion welded to a tube (the upper part looks like a ribbon-like extension - ligule) ending in 5 denticles. Corolla size 12 mm.
  • Androceus: the stamens are 5 with filiform filaments, free, while the anthers are welded together and form a sleeve surrounding the stylus, the anthers at the base are acute.
  • Gineceum: the ovary is inferounilocular formed by 2 carpels the style is single but deeply bifid and hairy.
  • Flowering: these flowers reach their anthesis between July and October / November.
  • Pollination: pollination by bees, which collect pollen and nectar [2] [3] (the flowers are however also self-fertile).

Fruits Edit

The fruit is an angular ovoid achene (almost prismatic with 3 - 5 edges) and elongated, glabrous with a smooth surface and ending in a crown of scales, it is surrounded by the hardened receptacle (in this case persistent) and embraced by the bracts of the envelope (also these persistent). The fruit is surmounted at the apex by a short persistent pappus composed of 40 - 50 very short (0.2 - 0.5 mm) bristles arranged in 1 - 2 series. Fruit size: length 2-3 mm.

  • Geoelement: the chorological type (area of ​​origin) is Cosmop. (Cosmopolitan), i.e. relative to all areas of the world but it is also defined Paleotemp. (Paleotemperate), relating to the temperate zones of Eurasia and North America and therefore can also be defined Eurasiat..
  • Diffusion: it is common throughout Italy (less frequent on the central Tyrrhenian side and in the south) in the rest of the world it is found in all continents.
  • Habitat: this plant can be found everywhere on the edges of paths, cultivated fields, uncultivated land, areas with rubble and ruderal environments, grasslands but also anthropized areas, also being a cultivated plant it is found in vegetable gardens and industrial crops. The substrate can be both calcareous and siliceous, the soil pH is basic with average nutritional values ​​in a dry environment.
  • Altitudinal diffusion: from the plane up to 1200ms.l.m. it is therefore present in the hilly and mountainous vegetation plan.

From a phytosociological point of view, the species on this sheet belongs to the following plant community:

Training : perennial nitrophilous communities Class : Artemisietea vulgaris Order : Onopordetalia acanthii

The Asteraceae family (or Compositae, nomen conservandum) is the most numerous plant family, organized in almost 1000 genera for a total of about 20,000 species. The genus of this plant (Cichorium) includes about ten species of which four are typical of the Italian flora. These plants belong to the subfamily of Liguliflorae (flower heads with only ligulate flowers) and to the tribe of Cichorioideae : mostly laticiferous plants with perfectly circular ligulate flowers and scattered leaves [4].

Variability Edit

This species is highly polymorphic and has not yet been thoroughly studied. For example in the south (and therefore with warm climates) it occurs in different variants (which according to Pignatti fall within the individual variability in fact by some texts these variants are considered synonyms of the main species [5]). The following list shows some varieties and subspecies (the list may not be complete and some names are considered by other authors to be synonyms of the main species or even of other species):

Hybrids Edit

According to some authors, some of the different variants observed in southern Italy could be hybrids between the species in the present sheet and the species Cichorium endivia L. subsp. pumilum (Jacq.) Hegi (synonym = Cichorium pumilum Jacq.).

Synonyms Edit

The species of this card, in other texts, can be called by different names. The following list indicates some of the most frequent synonyms:

  • Cichorium byzantinum G.C. Clementi (1857)
  • Cichorium casnia C.B. Clarke (1876)
  • Cichorium cicorea Dumort. (1829)
  • Cichorium commune Pallas (1776)
  • Cichorium glabratum C. Presl (1826)
  • Cichorium hirsutum Gren. (1838)
  • Perennial Cichorium Stokes (1812)
  • Cichorium rigidum Salisb. (1796)
  • Cichorium sylvestre Lam. (1779)

Similar species Edit

  • Cichorium endivia L. (Cichorium pumilum in Pignatti) - Wild endive: differs mainly from the color of the flower which is purple, from the fruits which are smaller (1.5 - 2.5 mm) but with longer pappi. It is also a plant with an annual biological cycle.

Pharmacy Edit

  • Active ingredients [6]: in the roots there are bitter substances, sugars (it contains three types of sugar: dextrose, levulose and Pentosipentose), choline, inulin, potassium, calcium and iron, dicaffeyltartaric acid (and other derivatives of caffeic acid).
  • Healing properties [6]: in general, chicory stimulates the functions, through purification and detoxification, of the intestine, liver and kidneys thanks to its digestive, hypoglycemic, laxative, cholagogue (facilitates the secretion of bile towards the intestine), and it is cardiotonic (regulates heart rate). Liquids can be extracted from the flowers which are useful for treating some types of ophthalmias. The pulp of the root can be useful for some inflammations (anti-inflammatory properties).
  • Parts used: for medicinal purposes the root is harvested throughout the summer and the leaves before flowering.
  • How to use: generally decoctions are used or syrups are formed from the macerated leaves appropriately you can get a refreshing cream for the face (fights redness).
  • Contraindications: it seems (according to traditional rumors) that the prolonged use of chicory roots as a coffee substitute reduces the functionality of the retina [7]. But it must also be said that modern scientific literature contains little or no evidence to support or refute such a hypothesis.

Kitchen Edit

In the kitchen, the most frequent use is that of leaves in salads (fresh or cooked). If you make constant use of fresh leaves you will also get the medicinal benefits described above. To avoid the excessive bitter taste, the leaves must be collected before flowering or the innermost part removed, blanched in plenty of lightly salted water and sautéed in a pan with oil, garlic and chilli. If roasted, the root of the plant becomes an excellent coffee substitute (a practice apparently proposed in 1600 by the Venetian physician and botanist Prospero Alpini (1553 - 1617) [8] initially but as a therapeutic purpose), used especially in times of war when coffee imports slowed down, such as during the Napoleonic period in Europe, or for other reasons in India, or in East Germany in 1976 during the "coffee crisis". Furthermore, the root, if boiled, represents a good food alternative for the diabetic (inulin is better tolerated than starch).

Even if today this food is overshadowed, let's not forget that in the past it was much more used as for example «bread and sautéed chicory». It is thanks to the Roman people that, among all the wild herbs, chicory is the one that is most remembered even by those who never go to the countryside. In ancient times there was the character of the "chicory" who as a profession collected this plant in the fields and then resold it in the local markets. Currently, the majority of dishes prepared with chicory fall into the category of "typical regional dishes", while in Puglia it is added to mashed beans.

Horticultural varieties Edit

Wild chicory has given rise to many horticultural varieties (generally anthocyanin cultivars, with colored leaves) below are some of the following:

  • Red Radicchio from Treviso
  • Variegated Radicchio of Castelfranco
  • Chioggia rose or Chioggia variegated chicory
  • Catalonia (chicory) or Chicory asparagus
  • Chicory from Brindisi [4]
  • Water chicory
  • Radicchio di Bruxelles or Chicory of Brussels or Chicory of Witloof
  • Chicory "Capuchin beard" [9]
  • Biondissima from Trieste
  • Ceriol
  • Rose of Gorizia

    Cichorium intybus L. - Common Chicory

    PARTS USED OR DRUG: the roots (after flowering in autumn) and leaves (before flowering) are used. ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: inulin, sugars, mineral salts, vitamins B, C, K, P, bitter substances. PROPERTIES: purifying, stimulating the physiological functions of the main excretory organs, ie liver and kidneys. Little laxative, digestive, hypoglycemic, diuretic, tonic and bitter-eupeptic. INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE: decoction and infusion The decoction of roots is used as a refreshing, anti-reddening and emollient for reddened skin. In the kitchen it is widely used in dry or stewed for its characteristic bitter taste The root was used as a substitute for coffee.


    "Two species: one with broad leaves like lettuce and one with narrow leaves - the wild species with stem and thinner root has a mastic-like gum on the branches, sometimes about the size of a bean - it helps the scorpion sting - chicory of Romans was called endive - bitter taste ».

    [cit. Mattheus Sylvaticus, Opus Pandectarum Medicinae, Venice 1523, c. 160, Cicorea]

    "Grass a finger long and equally wide - it spreads to the ground and embraces it - leaves deeply engraved on both sides - in the center rises a small stem on which there is a round fluff like hair, in the manner of fenicion grass, which dissolves to the touch - it is beneficial to those suffering from occlusions ».

    [cit. Mattheus Sylvaticus, Opus Pandectarum Medicinae, Venice 1523, c. 611, Rostrum porcinum]


    Habitus / Plants Edit

    Flora / Flowers Edit

    In Gósol (Berguedà - Catalunya)

    A Torah (Segarra - Cartalunya)

    A Torah (Segarra - Cartalunya)

    In Pinós (Solsonès - Catalunya)

    Cichorium intybus, Schwäbisch-Fränkische Waldberge, Germany

    Cichorium intybus, Schwäbisch-Fränkische Waldberge, Germany

    Cichorium intybus, Lower Austria

    Cichorium intybus, Lower Austria

    after Richer de Belleval (1796)

    Cichorium intybus L. ssp. intybus Foliosum Group [1] / Cichorium intybus convar. foliosum

    Vegetable endive

    The seeds can be started inside five or six weeks before being moved outside. In hot climates, sowing or transplanting outdoors takes place from September to March. Sowing chicory in colder climates should be done three to four weeks before the danger of frost passes.

    Sow the chicory seeds at 6-10cm intervals, in rows of 2 or 3 feet. You can always thin out plants if they pile up, but planting them nearby discourages weeds. The seeds are planted ¼ cm deep and thinning is done when the plants have three or four true leaves.

    You can also plant a crop for the fall harvest if you choose a variety that has an early ripening date. Sowing chicory seeds 75 to 85 days before early harvest ensures a late harvest.

    Chicory plants that will be forced to turn into bleached leaves will have to dig their roots before the first frosts. Cut the leaves to 1cm and store the roots for three to seven weeks in the refrigerator before forcing them. Plant the roots individually after they have cooled to force the leaves to develop into a tight, warm clump.

    The objectives of this work are to address the prebiotic effects of chicory (Cichorium intybus) together with its possible role in appetite control. We compared nine chicory genotypes in order to determine if variations in the content of metabolites in the roasted roots would lead to modifications in release of satiety hormones and in composition of gut microbiota. To this aim, a 5-week dietary-intervention study was achieved using mice fed with distinct chicory-based preparations. A 16S rRNA gene-based metagenetic analysis of fecal microbiota was performed. In vitro gastrointestinal digestions were performed in order to study the effect of chicory intestinal digests on gut hormone regulation in enteroendocrine cells. Firmicutes / Bacteroidetes ratio and gut bacterial groups, such as Alloprevotella, Blautia, Alistipes, and Oscillibacter, were found to be modulated by chicory. On the other hand, CCK and GLP-1 satiety hormones were demonstrated to be significantly increased by chicory in vitro.

    Keywords: Cichorium intybus metabolomics metagenetics prebiotics satiety hormones.

    Video: Preparate daruite de Dumnezeu, tinctura și ulei de Cichorium intybus