Vitamin-rich chicory

When it comes to chicory, opinions differ: some find the vegetable too bitter, while others love it for its tart taste. In any case, it is worth giving the light-colored vegetables a chance, because they are rich in vitamins and minerals and have few calories. Chicory is harvested in winter and is therefore one of the fresh vegetable delicacies for the cold season. 

The healthy ingredients of chicory

Chicory belongs to the daisy family. Many of the plant species in this family are known for their healing and flavoring qualities, such as arnica and artichoke.

Chicory leaves are rich in valuable nutrients such as:

With a calorie content of only  17 kilocalories per 100 grams,  the winter vegetables can also be eaten with a clear conscience.

Chicory: effect on digestion & Co.

Chicory sometimes owes its bitter taste to lactucopicrin (formerly called intybin). This  bitter substance  has a supporting effect on digestion: it stimulates the gallbladder and  pancreas  . Both glands are responsible for the production of important hormones and enzymes that make it possible to absorb substances from food.

Bitter substances are also said to have a blood sugar-lowering and pain-relieving effect.

Chicory is also rich in  fiber  and the sugar  inulin. These substances play a role in preventing intestinal diseases, such as  colon cancer . Thanks to the inulin, small amounts of chicory can also  relieve flatulence, for example  . But be careful: In too large doses, inulin can stimulate the activity of the intestines more than desired and in turn have a bloating effect.

In addition, the light-colored leaves have a diuretic effect and play a role in regulating the acid-base balance. These properties make chicory particularly suitable for rheumatism sufferers. 

8 useful tips for storage and preparation

Chicory can be eaten raw, and the vegetables can also be boiled, fried or steamed. Here you will find helpful tips for storing and preparing chicory:

  1. If you don’t like the bitter taste of chicory, you can  cut out the stalk in a wedge shape,  as this is where most of the bitter substances are.
  2. If the  leaves are also too bitter  , soak them in lukewarm salt water or  milk for a few minutes . This reduces the bitter taste, but the healthy effect of the bitter substances can be lost.
  3. So that the bitter taste does not intensify, the chicory should  be stored in a dark and cool place  . 
  4. If you store chicory wrapped in a damp kitchen towel in the fridge, it will keep for about  a week. 
  5. Add a little  lemon juice  when steaming the leaves to keep them bright green!
  6. Did you know that chicory can be used to find out if a pan  contains iron  ? Chicory turns black when fried in iron-coated pans.
  7. The  chicory season  runs from October to April.
  8. Red chicory,  a cross between red radicchio and white chicory, tastes milder but is much less common than white chicory. Since it loses its color when cooked, it is better to eat it raw.

Cooking with chicory: versatile and healthy

Even if you – like so many Germans – are not a big fan of chicory: Thanks to a variety of preparation options, there is something for every taste. Be inspired by the numerous recipes and try out different possibilities. 

The white leaves taste particularly good fresh and with a little fruit juice or  honey  in  the dressing . This  naturally reduces the bitter taste  and preserves the healthy substances. Popular classics are therefore also chicory and orange salad or chicory salad with tangerines.

But chicory is not only suitable for preparing fresh salads, it can also be used as a finger food boat or fried in delicious vegetable pans. The vegetables are also excellent for a casserole – simply wrap some chicory in ham and gratinate it with cheese. 

Interesting facts about chicory

Incidentally, originally it was not the leaves of the chicory that were said to have healing properties, but the roots. The so-called  chicory roots  were considered to be: 

  • sweaty
  • appetitanregend
  • laxative
  • helpful for gastrointestinal complaints
  • promotes healing in diseases of the gallbladder, spleen and liver

In addition, the roots were used to make substitute coffee (“Muckefuck”) – root chicory is still used for this today.

The history of chicory leaves therefore begins quite late, probably in Belgium in the 19th century. Due to an unexpectedly rich harvest, farmers are said to have stored chicory roots in the dark greenhouse. After a while they found the bright buds of chicory. Since then, the vegetable has been particularly popular in Belgium: Belgians consume an average of nine kilograms of chicory per year.

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