Updated: Sep 13, 2021
Chicory grows abundantly along the roadsides in eastern Kansas. It grows best in compacted soil. (Photos by Charlene Sims/Linn County Journal)
It's hard to miss the colorful blue flower that you see along roadsides this time of year. Chicory originated in the Mediterranean but is now naturalized in the United States and other countries.
While it grows across Kansas, it is most prolific in the eastern half of the state and blooms from July through September.
Chicory is from the Asteraceae or Sunflower Family. It usually grows one to five feet tall and is a perennial.
It grows along roadways, waste areas, and disturbed land sites. Sometimes, when you drive by it, it is very colorful but the next time you drive by, it seems to be gone. That’s because the flowers are usually open fully in the morning and tend to close up in the afternoon. On cloudy days they will stay open longer.
Chicory foliage has been used for salad greens and the dried root as a coffee substitute. Chicory used for consumption is usually cultivated for the young leaves as the older leaves tend to be more bitter.
Chicory found along the road should not be eaten because chemicals and other pollutants may cover the plant.
Chicory root is used a a coffee additive in parts of Southeast Asia, South Africa, and the southern United States. It continues to remain popular as a coffee substitute or addition, especially in New Orleans. Chicory has been used in many countries during economic crises as a coffee substitute. Chicory does not contain caffeine.
For information on the medicinal uses of chicory, search medical websites. Before consuming any plant, research it so that you can properly identify it, understand it’s uses and possible side effects.