Our exploration continues with chicory (Cichorium intybus), a country grass easily recognisable by its blue flowers that bloom from summer until late October. This plant is like a natural clock for shepherds: when its flowers begin to close in the afternoon, it is time to milk the grazing animals. Chicory grows in low mountains and adapts to various types of environment, from path margins to ruderal areas, from meadows to urban areas. This herb has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, as demonstrated by the Egyptian papyrus Ebers, dating back almost four thousand years.
The Greeks and Romans also knew of its therapeutic properties, such as Galen, who considered it beneficial for the liver, and Pliny, who praised its refreshing properties. Today, thanks to the presence of mineral salts, inulin and vitamins A, B and C, we know that chicory stimulates the appetite, regulates intestinal function and has a detoxifying effect on the body, especially on the liver and kidneys.
Some say that sautéed is the best way to eat it. Some even say it should be the only one. Opinions. In Spello, for example, they prepare it with potatoes, in this interesting recipe, Cicoria alla Spellana:
- Preparation and cooking time: about 1 hour
- Difficulty: Easy
- Servings: Serves 4
- 500 g potatoes
- 100 g chicory
- 100 g bacon
- Salt to taste
- Oil to taste
- Pepper to taste
Boil the potatoes in previously salted boiling water for about 30/50 minutes, depending on their size. To check the cooking time, you can use a long wooden skewer or the tines of a fork. Once cooked, peel and coarsely chop them, drizzling them with oil while still hot.
Meanwhile boil the previously washed chicory in hot salted water. Place the diced bacon in a pan with a little oil, let it brown for a few minutes and add the chicory and potatoes.
Serve on a plate, seasoning with the cooking liquid from the bacon and a generous sprinkling of pepper.
If you are interested in learning more about them or how to recognize them correctly – which is very important – and understand how to collect them, visit the website of the Academy of Wild Field Herbs or follow their Facebook page.