Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's That You're Drinking?


                               

Most of you are thinking right now, "Man that looks like a good cup of Joe!". It's actually not coffee at all, well not made from coffee beans at least. It is, in fact, "chicory coffee". A very popular beverage in the southern united states, specifically New Orleans. It is said to have originated in ancient Egyptian times. The French have also been known to add it to their coffee as a flavor enhancer since the 1800s. Today in the US, it is used mostly in coffee substitutes and added to coffee blends to enhance the body and flavor.

You may be wondering, what the heck is chicory? Cichorium intybus, is it's scientific name. It is a perennial plant of the daisy family. Chicory grows wild in most places around the world, but is also cultivated. The leaves, alternately called succory or wild endive can be used in salads, sautéed or tossed in soups. The blue/violet flowers are even edible! The root is the part used to create chicory coffee. It is chopped, roasted and then ground. It can be brewed most anyway you would brew regular coffee. 
  



Image obtained from cmc-livegreen.blogspot.com


This amazing plant isn't just a tasty coffee substitute or salad addition, but has some fairly well know medicinal properties as well. It is most known for its anti-parasitic affect on grazing cattle and for its liver detoxifying qualities. It was used for detoxing the liver even in ancient Egyptian times. 


- Anti-parasitic

- Detoxifies the liver.

- Aids in digestion/increases bile production.

- Inulin, a fiber found in chicory root acts as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.

- Eases anxiety

You can see why it might be a beneficial plant to add to your daily routine! So, how to implement this? Well if you've got the foraging bug like I sometimes do, just take a walk in a field. The leaves are good to eat early spring but later in the season they become pretty bitter. Right now, you'll see chicory's distinctive flowers everywhere. Find some and dig up the root (save the flowers for salads if you like). 

DIY chicory coffee

1 Preheat oven to 350.

2 Thoroughly wash your chicory roots.

3 Chop your chicory root into slices, as thin as you can manage.

4 Lay out the chopped chicory on an un-greased cookie sheet.

5 Roast for about 1 hour, or until they become a dark golden brown color. 

6 Grind and brew like you would coffee beans.

If you don't have the foraging bug or are not feeling particularly DIYish than you can just buy chicory coffee at a grocery store. There are coffee substitutes that blend chicory with other spices and flavors. Teeccino is a a great tasting brand that has a good ingredient list. You can also buy just plain ground and roasted chicory root, usually in the same section as other coffee substitutes at most food co-ops. 

So if you are a coffee drinker, like the taste of coffee or just want to try something new, try some chicory. You don't have to give up coffee to add this amazing beverage to your day. It's non caffeinated and actually has a relaxing affect on most people. You can even add it 50/50 to your normal brew and still get the caffeine kick that some people crave with awesome flavor and added health benefits. 

Happy Brewing