Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mat Rush (Lomandra)

Latin Name: Lomandra

Description: A tussock or rush like plant. It grows 1 m high. It spread 60 cm to 1 m wide. It keeps growing from year to year. The root system is crowded into a clump. The leaves are long and narrow. They are tough but flexible. They can be 1 m long by 1 cm wide. They have flat or slightly in-rolled edges. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. They are tiny and cream coloured. They are about 4 mm long and grouped in clusters 1-2 cm long. These are also grouped along flattened flowering branches 60 cm long. There is a sharp pointed spiny bract 2 cm long at the base of each flower. They flowers are fragrant.

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Notes: This strappy leaf plant is often used on roadside plantings in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and the USA, due to its high level of drought tolerance. The breeding of more compact finer leaf forms has made Lomandra longifolia popular as an ever green grass like plant in home plantings.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 0

Lomandra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Uses: Flowers – raw. A flavour of fresh peas. Both sexes are used though the male flowers are easier to harvest. White leaf bases – raw. A flavour of green peas, they are refreshing and enjoyable.

Other Uses: Basketry; Fibre; Weaving.

The leaves contain a tough fibre and they are used in basket making and in weaving. This fibre can also be made into a string.

Resources: 

Wikispiecies

Great Mullein (Verbascum spp)

Latin Name: Verbascum spp

Description:

A stout herb.  It takes two years to complete its life cycle.  It can be 2.5 m high.  The flowering stems are erect.  The leaves, stems and outer flower parts have dense soft white hairs.  There is a ring of leaves near the base.  These are oval or sword shaped with a sharp tip.  The leaf base narrows to a winged stalk.  The leaves on the flowering stem get smaller and do not have a stalk.  They have a wing which continues down the stem.  The flowers are on a dense rod like structure.  The flowers are in groups of 1-7 in the axils of bracts.  The fruit is a dry round capsule.

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Notes: 

Like many ancient medicinal plants (Pliny the Elder describes it in his Naturalis Historia), Great Mullein was linked to witches, although the relationship remained generally ambiguous, and the plant was also widely held to ward off curses and evil spirits. The seeds contain several compounds (saponins, glycosides, coumarin, rotenone) that cause breathing problems in fish, and have been widely used as piscicide for fishing. The stalk can also be dried as a spindle for making fire either by hand drill or bow drill.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 1

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: 

An aromatic, slightly bitter tea can be made by infusing the dried leaves in boiling water for 5 – 10 minutes. A sweeter tea can be made by infusing the fresh or dried flowers.

Warnings: The leaves contain rotenone and coumarin, though the quantities are not given. Rotenone is used as an insecticide and coumarin can prevent the blood from clotting. Hairs on the leaves can act as an irritant.

Great Mullein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Uses:  Anodyne;  Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Demulcent;  Emollient;  Expectorant;  Homeopathy;  Narcotic;  Odontalgic;  Vulnerary.

Medicinal Information: 

Great mullein is a commonly used domestic herbal remedy, valued for its efficacy in the treatment of pectoral complaints. It acts by reducing the formation of mucus and stimulating the coughing up of phlegm, and is a specific treatment for tracheitis and bronchitis. The leaves and the flowers are anodyne, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, demulcent, diuretic, emollient, expectorant and vulnerary. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhoea. The plant combines well with other expectorants such as coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Externally, a poultice of the leaves is a good healer of wounds and is also applied to ulcers, tumours and piles. Any preparation made from the leaves needs to be carefully strained in order to remove the small hairs which can be an irritant. The plant is harvested when in flower and is dried for later use. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations. This infusion is also strongly bactericidal. A decoction of the roots is said to alleviate toothache and also relieve cramps and convulsions. The juice of the plant and powder made from the dried roots is said to quickly remove rough warts when rubbed on them. It is not thought to be so useful for smooth warts. The seeds are slightly narcotic and also contain saponins. A poultice made from the seeds and leaves is used to draw out splinters. A decoction of the seeds is used to soothe chilblains and chapped skin. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh leaves. It is used in the treatment of long-standing headaches accompanied with oppression of the ear.

Other Uses: Dye;  Insecticide;  Insulation;  Lighting;  Tinder;  Wick.

A yellow dye is obtained from the flowers by boiling them in water. When used with dilute sulphuric acid they produce a rather permanent green dye, this becomes brown with the addition of alkalis. An infusion of the flowers is sometimes used to dye the hair a golden colour. The flowering stems can be dipped in wax and used as torches. The down on the leaves and stems makes an excellent tinder when quite dry. It is also used as an insulation in shoes to keep the feet warm and to make wicks for candle. One report says that the leaves contain rotenone, though it does not say in what quantity. Rotenone is used as an insecticide.

Resources: 

Wikispiecies

Glossy nightshade (Solanum americanum)

Latin Name: Solanum americanum

Description: A herb.  It grows 30-150 cm high.  It is an annual plant.  The leaves are oval and 5-10 cm long by 2-2.5 cm wide.  The leaves vary is shape in different locations.  The flowers are in the axils of leaves.  The black fruit is soft, round and glossy, 5-6 mm across.

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Edibility Rating out of 5: 1

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 0

Edible Uses:  Young leaves – cooked. The leaves contain about 6990mg of beta carotene per 100g. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Fruit – cooked. It should be used only when fully ripe. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Solanum americanum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warnings: Research indicating the presence of toxic glycoalkaloids prompted a warning to be careful on the use of S.americanum as herbal medicine and food. The green fruit is particularly poisonous. Ripe berries and foliage may also cause poisoning. This is via high levels of the glycoalkaloids, solanine and solamargine, as well as the tropane alkaloids scopolamine (hyoscine) and hyoscyamine (an isomer of atropine).

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Significant amounts of solasodine(0.65%) have also been found in the green berries. Eating unripe berries has caused the death of children. The ripe fruit also contains 0.3-0.45% solasonine. Toxicity varies widely depending on the variety and the location, and poisonous plant experts advise: “…unless you are certain that the berries are from an edible strain, leave them alone.”

Resources: 

Wikispiecies

Flickweed (Cardamine hirsuta)

Latin Name: Cardamine Hirsuta

Description:

A cabbage family herb.  It is an annual or perennial plant.  It forms a rosette or ring of leaves.  It grows to a height of 30 cm and spreads to 30 cm.  The stem is erect and the leaves are green and sword shaped.  They usually have 3-7 pairs of leaflets.  The flowers are pale mauve and small.  They have 4 petals.  They occur in clusters at the ends of branches.  The fruits are 15-25 mm long pods, which are narrow and erect.  They are about 1 mm thick.  The seeds are brown and with a smooth coat.  They are about 1 mm long.

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Notes: 

As Old English stune, the plant is cited as one of the herbs invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 3

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 0

Cardamine hirsuta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Uses: Leaves and flowers – raw or cooked. A hot cress-like flavour, they are mainly used as a garnish or flavouring in salads etc but are also sometimes used as a potherb. The plant germinates most freely in the autumn and so leaves are usually available all winter.

Resources: 

Wikispiecies

Fleabane (Conyza spp)

Latin Name: Conyza spp

Description:

A robust herb.  It is erect and grows from seed each year.  The stems are hairy.  They are 1 m long.  The leaves are alternate and grey green.  They are narrow and have small hairs.  There can be fine teeth along the edge.  The flowers are a the top and in pales yellow flower heads.  The fruit are oblong.  They have pale brown bristles.

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Edibility Rating out of 5: 1

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: Young leaves and seedlings – cooked. Boiled, cooked in rice or dried for later use. The source of an essential oil that is used commercially for flavouring sweets, condiments and soft drinks. The fresh leaves contain 0.2 – 0.66% essential oil.

Warnings: 

Skin contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in some people.

Medicinal Uses:  

Astringent;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Homeopathy;  Hypoglycaemic;  Styptic;  Tonic;  VD;  Vermifuge.

Medicinal Information:  

In traditional North American herbal medicine, Canada fleabane was boiled to make steam for sweat lodges, taken as a snuff to stimulate sneezing during the course of a cold and burned to create a smoke that warded off insects. Nowadays it is valued most for its astringency, being used in the treatment of gastro-intestinal problems such as diarrhoea and dysentery. It is said to be a very effective treatment for bleeding haemorrhoids. The whole plant is antirheumatic, astringent, balsamic, diuretic, emmenagogue, styptic, tonic and vermifuge. It can be harvested at any time that it is in flower and is best used when fresh. The dried herb should not be stored for more than a year. The seeds can also be used. An infusion of the plant has been used to treat diarrhoea and internal haemorrhages or applied externally to treat gonorrhoea and bleeding piles. The leaves are experimentally hypoglycaemic. The essential oil found in the leaves is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and internal haemorrhages. It is a uterine stimulant and is also said to be valuable in the treatment of inflamed tonsils plus ulceration and inflammation of the throat. A tea of the boiled roots is used to treat menstrual irregularities. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant.

Other Uses:  

The plant contains small quantities of essential oil. Since the plant is readily obtainable, extraction of the oil is feasible – it has a special quality that would make it suitable in the making of perfumes with unusual nuances.

Resources: 

Wikispiecies

Fat Hen (Chenopodium album)

Latin Name: Chenopodium album

Description:  An annual plant, it grows to 1-2 m high and spreads to 1 m across.  The stem is erect, succulent and without hairs and they often have soft mealy lumps which can be rubbed off.  The leaves are simple, with one at each node, and occurring alternately up the stem.  The leaves are oval and wedge shaped with saw like edges, 5-12 cm long by 3-10 cm wide.  The leaf stalk is usually shorter than the leaf blade.  The under surface of the leaf often has a white mealy layer which can be rubbed off.   The flowers occur in dense white spikes and occur at the tip and ends of branches.  The fruit is a pod, small, roundish and papery and it opens around the tip.  The pod contains a shiny black seed 1.2-1.8 mm across.   Seeds can occur in very large numbers.

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Notes: In India, the plant is popularly called bathua and found abundantly in the winter season. The leaves and young shoots of this plant are used in dishes such as soups, curries, and paratha-stuffed breads, especially popular in Punjab. The seeds or grains are used in phambra or laafi, gruel-type dishes in Himachal Pradesh, and in mildly alcoholic fermented beverages such as soora and ghanti.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 3

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 2

Edible Uses: Young flowers are cooked and eaten.

The sprouted seeds are edible.  Leaves – raw or cooked, a very acceptable spinach substitute, the taste is a little bland but this can be improved by adding a few stronger-flavoured leaves. One report says that, when eaten with beans, the leaves will act as a carminative to prevent wind and bloating. The leaves are best not eaten raw, see the notes below on toxicity. The leaves are generally very nutritious but very large quantities can disturb the nervous system and cause gastric pain. The leaves contain about 3.9% protein, 0.76% fat, 8.93% carbohydrate, 3% ash. Edible seed – dried and ground into a meal and eaten raw or baked into a bread. The seed can also be sprouted and added to salads. The seed is rather small but very easy to harvest and simple enough to utilize. The seed should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before being used in order to remove any saponins. The seed contains about 49% carbohydrate, 16% protein, 7% ash, 5.88% ash. Young inflorescences – cooked. A tasty broccoli substitute.

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Warnings: The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food, but these plants are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plant will reduce its content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition. A report says that if the plant is grown in soils that contain too much nitrates then the plant can concentrate these substances in the leaves.

Chenopodium album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Uses: 

Anthelmintic;  Antiphlogistic;  Antirheumatic;  Contraceptive;  Laxative;  Odontalgic.

Medicinal Information: Fat hen is not employed in herbal medicine, though it does have some gentle medicinal properties and is a very nutritious and healthy addition to the diet. The leaves are anthelmintic, antiphlogistic, antirheumatic, mildly laxative, odontalgic. An infusion is taken in the treatment of rheumatism. The leaves are applied as a wash or poultice to bug bites, sunstroke, rheumatic joints and swollen feet, whilst a decoction is used for carious teeth. The seeds are chewed in the treatment of urinary problems and are considered useful for relieving the discharge of semen through the urine. The juice of the stems is applied to freckles and sunburn. The juice of the root is used in the treatment of bloody dysentery. Food that comprises 25.5% of the powdered herb may suppress the oestrus cycle.

Other Uses: 

A green dye is obtained from the young shoots. The crushed fresh roots are a mild soap substitute. The stalk of the mature plant is harvested and used as a strong and flexible walking stick.

Dock (Rumex spp)

Latin Name: Rumex

Family: Polygonaceae

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Description: An erect herb. It can grow up to 1 m tall. It keeps growing from year to year. The leaves are smooth. They are sword shaped or oblong and up to 30 cm long. They are wavy along the edges. The leaves at the base are larger with larger leaf stalks. The flowers are very small. They are greenish. They are crowded in rings on a branched flower stalk. The flowering stems can be 1.2 m high. The fruit is dry and one seeded. It is 3 angled. The seed valves are broad and 4-6 mm long. They do not have spines.

Notes:  

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: Leaves – raw or cooked. They can also be dried for later use. The leaves can be added to salads, cooked as a potherb or added to soups. Only the very young leaves should be used, preferably before the stems have developed, and even these are likely to be bitter. If used in early spring and in the autumn they can often be fairly pleasant tasting. The leaves are very rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron and the vitamins A and C. Stems – raw or cooked. They are best peeled and the inner portion eaten. Seed – raw or cooked. It can be used as a piñole or can be ground into a powder and used as a flour for making pancakes etc. The seed is very fiddly to harvest and prepare and can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Warnings: Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition. Avoid during pregnancy & breast feeding.

Medicinal Uses: Alterative; Antiscorbutic; Astringent; Cancer; Cholagogue; Depurative; Homeopathy; Laxative; Poultice; Salve; Tonic.

Medicinal Information: Curled dock has a long history of domestic herbal use. It is a gentle and safe laxative, less powerful than rhubarb in its action so it is particularly useful in the treatment of mild constipation. The plant has valuable cleansing properties and is useful for treating a wide range of skin problems. All parts of the plant can be used, though the root is most active medicinally. The root is alterative, antiscorbutic, astringent, cholagogue, depurative, laxative and mildly tonic. It used to be sold as a tonic and laxative. It can cause or relieve diarrhoea according to the dose, harvest time and relative concentrations of tannin(astringent) and anthraquinones (laxative) that are present. It is used internally in the treatment of constipation, diarrhoea, piles, bleeding of the lungs, various blood complaints and also chronic skin diseases. Externally, the root can be mashed and used as a poultice and salve, or dried and used as a dusting powder, on sores, ulcers, wounds and various other skin problems. The root has been used with positive effect to restrain the inroads made by cancer, being used as an alterative and tonic. The root is harvested in early spring and dried for later use. Some caution is advised in its use since excess doses can cause gastric disturbance, nausea and dermatitis. The seed is used in the treatment of diarrhoea. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh root, harvested in the autumn.

Other Uses: 
Compost; Dye.

Yellow, dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots. They do not need a mordant. An alternative ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activato, a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Cobblers peg (Bidens pilosa)

Latin Name: Bidens pilosa

Family: Asteraceae or Compositae

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Description:

An annual plant. The stems are bristly and sticky. They are square in cross section. It trails over other plants. It climbs by hooked bristles. The leaves are bristly and sprout from the stems in clusters of 6-8. The leaves do not have stalks. The flowers are small and white. The seed pods are bristly and have 2 round segments about 3 mm wide.
A small annual upright herb with small black seeds in heads. It is an erect branched herb 0.2 to 1.5 m tall. The branches or stems have parallel lines or ridges. The stems are four angled. The leaves are up to 15 cm long with the upper ones much smaller. The leaves are divided into 3-5 leaflets. The end leaflet is usually larger (3 cm x 9 cm). The edges of the leaves are toothed. The flowers occur at the end of branches. They are on long stalks. The flowers are brown or yellow. The seeds are black with 2-4 projections at the top. (The seeds often stick to clothes.)

Notes: It is a commercially cultivated vegetable. This plant is a troublesome weed in many places. It is only a very minor food in Papua New Guinea. It is both grown and eaten in Africa. It is widely used throughout Malawi and Zimbabwe. This plant has been used in medicine and recent studies have shown these treatments are due to chemicals effective in controlling bacteria (gram positive types) and assisting liver function. Leaves are a good source of iodine. There are about 200 Bidens species. Most are in North America.

Edible Uses: The seeds are used in making an Igorot rice wine called “sinitsit” in the Philippines.
The seeds are eaten, particularly by children (e.g. in Enga) in Papua New Guinea.
The young leaves are edible cooked. They should be cooked due to saponins.
The leaves are cooked in soups and stews. The young leaves can be dried for later use. Fresh they can only be stored for 3-4 days.
They are also used as a substitute for tea. A good source of iodine.

Warnings: The roots, leaves and flowers are strongly phototoxic. Substances isolated from the leaves can kill human skin in the presence of sunlight

Bidens pilosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Uses: Alterative; Antifungal; Antiinflammatory; Antirheumatic; Styptic.

Medicinal Information: A juice made from the leaves is used to dress wounds and ulcers. A decoction of the leaves is anti-inflammatory, styptic and alterative. The whole plant is antirheumatic, it is also used in enemas to treat intestinal ailments. Substances isolated from the leaves are bactericidal and fungicidal, they are used in the treatment of thrush and candida. In traditional Chinese medicine, this plant is considered a medicinal herb, called xian feng cao.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Latin Name: Galium aparine

Family: Rubiaceae

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Description: An annual plant. The stems are bristly and sticky. They are square in cross section. It trails over other plants. It climbs by hooked bristles. The leaves are bristly and sprout from the stems in clusters of 6-8. The leaves do not have stalks. The flowers are small and white. The seed pods are bristly and have 2 round segments about 3 mm wide.

Notes:  In Europe, the dried, matted foliage of the plant was once used to stuff mattresses. Several of the bedstraws were used for this purpose, due to the fact that the clinging hairs cause the branches to stick together, which enables the mattress filling to maintain a uniform thickness.

Galium aparine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: The tender young shoot tips – raw or cooked as a pot-herb. A rather bitter flavour that some people find unpalatable, they are best used in the spring. They make a useful addition to vegetable soups. It is said that using this plant as a vegetable has a slimming effect on the body. The roasted seed is one of the best substitutes, it merely needs to be dried and lightly roasted and has much the flavour of coffee. A decoction of the whole dried plant gives a drink equal to tea.

Warnings: The sap of the plant can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people.

Medicinal Uses: Alterative; Antiphlogistic; Aperient; Astringent; Cancer; Depurative; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Homeopathy; Skin; Tonic; Vulnerary.

Medicinal Information: Goosegrass has a long history of domestic medicinal use and is also used widely by modern herbalists. A valuable diuretic, it is often taken to treat skin problems such as seborrhoea, eczema and psoriasis, and as a general detoxifying agent in serious illnesses such as cancer. The whole plant, excluding the root, is alterative, antiphlogistic, aperient, astringent, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, tonic and vulnerary. It is harvested as it comes into flower and can be used fresh or dried for later use. It is used both internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of ailments, including as a poultice for wounds, ulcers and many other skin problems, and as a decoction for insomnia and cases where a strong diuretic is beneficial. It has been shown of benefit in the treatment of glandular fever, ME, tonsillitis, hepatitis, cystitis etc. The plant is often used as part of a spring tonic drink with other herbs. A number of species in this genus contain asperuloside, a substance that produces coumarin and gives the scent of new-mown hay as the plant dries. Asperuloside can be converted into prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds that stimulate the uterus and affect blood vessels), making the genus of great interest to the pharmaceutical industry. A homeopathic remedy has been made from the plant.

Other Uses: 
Cleanser; Dye; Filter; Tinder.

A red dye is obtained from a decoction of the root. The dried plant is used as a tinder. The plant can be rubbed on the hands to remove pitch (tar). The stems are placed in a layer 8cm or more thick and then used as a sieve for filtering liquids.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Latin Name: Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Family: Asteraceae or Compositae

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Description: A perennial herb up to 1 m high. It forms clumps. It has white, milky sap when parts are broken off. Kinds have been selected either for their fattened edible roots or for their edible leaves. The plant has a large taproot. The leaves are sword shaped and have teeth along the edge. The leaves form a cluster around the base of the plant. They can be 12 cm long. The leaves up the stem clasp the stem. The highest leaves are reduced to bracts. It has a bright blue, pink or white flowers on a branched stem. The flowers are dandelion-like. The flower heads can be 3.5 cm across. Several cultivated varieties have been produced.

Cichorium intybus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:  The chicory plant is one of the earliest cited in recorded literature. Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: “Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae” (“As for me, olives, endives, and mallows provide sustenance”). In 1766, Frederick the Great banned the importatation of coffee into Prussia leading to the development of a coffee-substitute by Brunswick innkeeper Christian Gottlieb Förster (died 1801), who gained a concession in 1769/70 to manufacture it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were 22 to 24 factories of this type in Brunswick. Lord Monboddo describes the plant in 1779[48] as the “chicoree”, which the French cultivate it as a pot herb. In Napoleonic Era France chicory frequently appeared as either an adulterant in coffee, or a coffee substitute. Chicory was also adopted as a coffee substitute by Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has become common in the United States. It was also used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, where Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885.
The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink.
In the United States chicory root has long been used as a substitute for coffee in prisons. By the 1840s, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee (after New York). Louisianans began to add chicory root to their coffee when Union naval blockades during the American Civil War cut off the port of New Orleans, thereby creating a long-standing tradition.
Chicory is also mentioned in certain sericulture (silk-growing) texts. It is said that the primary caretaker of the silkworms, the “silkworm mother”, should not eat or even touch it.
The chicory flower is often seen as inspiration for the Romantic concept of the Blue Flower (e. g. in German language ‘Blauwarte’ ≈ ‘blue lookout by the wayside’). It was also believed to be able to open locked doors, according to European folklore.

Edibility Rating out of 5:  4

Medicinal Rating out of 5:  3

Edible Uses: Leaves – raw or cooked. The leaves are rather bitter, especially when the plants are flowering. The leaves are often blanched by excluding light, either by removing all the leaves and then earthing up the new growth, or by covering the plant with a bucket or something similar. Whilst this greatly reduces any bitterness, there is also a corresponding loss of vitamins and minerals. The blanched leaves are often used in winter salads (they are known as chicons) and are also cooked. The unblanched leaves are much less bitter in winter and make an excellent addition to salads at this time of year. Flowers – raw. An attractive addition to the salad bowl, but rather bitter. Root – cooked like parsnip. The boiled young roots form a very palatable vegetable. The root is said to be an ideal food for diabetics because of its inulin content. Inulin is a starch that cannot be digested by humans, it tends to pass straight through the digestive system and is therefore unlikely to be of use to a diabetic,however, the inulin can be used to make a sweetener that is suitable for diabetics to use. Chicory-root is free of harmful ingredients, and is essentially a concentrated combination of three sugars (pentose, levulose and dextrose) along with taraxarcine (the bitter principle of dandelion). It is especially important as source of levulose. Roots are used in seasoning soups, sauces and gravies, and to impart a rich deep colour. The roasted root is used as a caffeine-free coffee adulterant or substitute. Young roots have a slightly bitter caramel flavour when roasted, roots over 2 years old are much more bitter. Wild chicory leaves are usually bitter. Their bitterness is appreciated in certain cuisines, such as in the Liguria and Puglia regions of Italy and also in Catalonia (Spain), in Greece and in Turkey. In Ligurian cuisine the wild chicory leaves are an ingredient of preboggion and in Greek cuisine of horta; in the Puglian region wild chicory leaves are combined with fava bean puree in the traditional local dish Fave e Cicorie Selvatiche. In Albania the leaves are used as a spinach substitute, mainly served simmered and marinated in olive oil, or as ingredient for fillings of byrek.
By cooking and discarding the water the bitterness is reduced, after which the chicory leaves may be sautéed with garlic, anchovies and other ingredients. In this form the resulting greens might be combined with pasta or accompany meat dishes. A common meal in Rome, puntarelle, is made with chicory sprouts.

Warnings: Excessive and continued use may impair function of the retina.

Medicinal Uses: Appetizer; Bach; Cardiac; Cholagogue; Depurative; Digestive; Diuretic; Hypoglycaemic; Laxative; Tonic; Warts.

Medicinal Information: Chicory has a long history of herbal use and is especially of great value for its tonic affect upon the liver and digestive tract. It is little used in modern herbalism, though it is often used as part of the diet. The root and the leaves are appetizer, cholagogue, depurative, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic, laxative and tonic. The roots are more active medicinally. A decoction of the root has proved to be of benefit in the treatment of jaundice, liver enlargement, gout and rheumatism. A decoction of the freshly harvested plant is used for treating gravel. The root can be used fresh or dried, it is best harvested in the autumn. The leaves are harvested as the plant comes into flower and can also be dried for later use. The root extracts have experimentally produced a slower and weaker heart rate (pulse). The plant merits research for use in heart irregularities. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies – the keywords for prescribing it are ‘Possessiveness’, ‘Self-love’ and ‘Self-pity’. The latex in the stems is applied to warts in order to destroy them.

Other Uses: Biomass; Compost.

The roots have the potential to be used for the production of biomass for industrial use. They are rich in the starch ‘inulin’ which can easily be converted to alcohol. A blue dye has been obtained from the leaves. The flowers are an alternative ingredient of ‘QR’ herbal compost activator, a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost.

Resources:

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