Cichorium intybus L.
Chicory, Succory, Witloof chicory, Radichetta, Asparagus chicory
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Chicory, cultivated since ancient times for its leaves, is used for salads. It
is usually blanched by covering with litter to make it less bitter; whole or
shredded leaves are served with oil and vinegar as salads; blanched hearts
serve as a vegetable. Root-chicory, established in Europe during, the
Napoleanic blockade, is cultivated for roots used as a coffee substitute. When
blended with ground coffee, they enhance the flavor and aroma of the
Cultivated plant in India is used as a tonic, and in diarrhea, enlargement of
the spleen, fever and vomiting. Wild form is considered alexiteric,
emmenagogue and tonic. The juice is said to be a folk remedy for cancer of the
uterus and for tumors. The powdered seed is said to remedy indurations of the
spleen. The leaf, boiled with honey for a gargle is said to cure cancer of the
mouth. The root, boiled in water is said to help cancer of the breast and face
Chicory-root is free of harmful ingredients, and is essentially a concentrated
combination of three sugars (pentose, levulose and dextrose) and 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 color. Dried chicory roots, as crumbs, are used as horse feed,
being a good oat substitute (4.85% protein, 0.85% fat, 4.35% sugar).
Perennial herb, reproducing by seeds and from roots; taproot fleshy, deep,
branched, up to 75 cm long,with a milky sap, stems hollow, 3-24 dm tall, often
rough-hairy, becoming woody and reddish, the branches rigid, stiffly spreading;
leaves alternate, mainly clustered near the base, or forming a rosette near the
ground, long-petioled, 1-2 dm long, up to 12 cm broad, irregularly toothed to
deeply lobed, glabrous or rough-hairy; upper leaves entire and dentate, oblong
lanceolate, greatly reduced (3-7 cm tong), sessile, clasping the stem, base
extended into a pair of ear-like projections; flower-heads numberous, 2-5-3 cm
in diameter, axillary, 1-5 in sessile clusters along branches or at tip of
short stiff branches that often have gland tipped hairs; flowers perfect, all
strap-shaped ray flowers, sky-blue, sometimes white or rarely pink; bracts
surrounding flower-heads in 2 rows, outer 5 about half as long as 8-10 inner,
thickened and yellowish at the base, sometimes with gland-tipped hairs, margins
minutely spiny; achene (seed or fruit) 2-3 mm long, obovate, light brown and
darker mottled, finely granular, obscurely 4- to 5-angled, the tip blunt,
beakless; pappus a minute fringed crown of tiny bristle-like scales. Fl. June
to October, or in early March in southern United States and in the Pacific
Northwest (Reed, 1976).
Outstanding cvs grown for compact, crisp, white heads, used mainly for salad
leaves are: 'Witloof' or 'Brussels Witloof' (broad, shallow lobed or toothed
leaves and wide midribs), 'Sugar Loaf', 'Rossa di Verone' (Leaves with
reddish-brown markings, becoming brighter red upon blanching); cvs grown for
roots used as coffee substitutes are: 'Brunswick' (deeply cut leaves),
'Long-rooted Magdeburn' and 'Westland' strain, and 'Zealand', 'Brandenburg'
(Belgium). Reported from the Eurosiberian Center of Diversity, chicory or cvs
thereof is reoprted to tolerate frost, fungi, high pH, low pH, poor soil, sand,
slope, virus, and weeds. (2n = 18) (Duke, 1978).
Native to Europe, central Russia and western Asia, and cultivated widely
through Europe in early times. Presently cultivated in most temperate regions,
where it has escaped and become naturalized as a serious weed in many areas.
chicory grows on any type of soil, but, when cultivated grows best on mellow,
deeply tilled, fertile soil or sandy loam. A cool weather crop, it tolerates
only moderate summer temperatures, and requires well-distributed rainfall, with
good drainage, or some irrigation in drier areas. Chicory roots deeply in
relatively short time; soil too wet for beans and small grains is not suitable.
To insure proper root-growth, apply lime or marl to acid soil to neutralize
acidity. Ranging from Boreal Moist through Tropical very dry to Wet Forest
Life Zones, chicory is reported to tolerate pH of 4.5 to 8.3, an annual
rainfall of 30 to 400 cm, an annual mean biotemperature of 6° to 27°C
(Duke, 1978, 1979).
Cultural practices for this root crop are the same as those for sugar beet.
Soil should be plowed to a depth of 17 to 25 cm to permit root development.
Seed should be planted, or drilled, in a firm, fine-textured seed bed, at a
depth of not more than 0.6 cm in rows spaced 45-60 cm apart, at a rate of 2.25
kg/ha. Germination is slow. Since development is slow, excessive hand labor
to control weeds may be avoided by planting chicory following another crop such
as beans or corn. Cultivation should begin as soon as possible. When plants
reach the 4-leaf stage they are thinned to stand 20-25 cm apart in the row.
First cultivation may be fairly deep, but subsequent cultivation should be
shallow and not close to the plants, to avoid damaging the taproot. Likewise,
thinning should not be too late, as thinning may disturb roots of remaining
plants. Chicory is a heavy feeder. Manure should be applied above the bed
instead of beneath the roots, as bottom heat forces too rapid growth of the
shoots. In some areas seeds are broadcast over the seed bed, and seedlings
thinned to stand about 25 cm apart each way.
Harvesting should take place as late in the season as possible as there is
usually a marked increase in size and weight of roots during cool weather.
Care should be taken to remove all remaining pieces of roots as they become
established as weeds. Tops are cut off with a heavy knife, and left on the
ground to decay as green manure, or fed to livestock. The roots may be piled
in the field for a while, or taken directly to a factory to be processed for
root-chicory. At the factory, roots are washed, sliced into cubes about 2.5 cm
square, and dried over fire. Dried chicory may be stored indefinitely. Final
process consists of roasting the dried chicory, grinding it to a fineness
suitable for blending with ground coffee. Ground chicory is usually packed in
bulk in waterproof barrels or sacks, or in smaller packages for household use.
For greens, chicory is harvested when the root is small and early young leaves
are tender. For forced chicory, the roots are loosened with a beet lifter and
pulled by hand about the end of October. For immediate use they are stored in
pits and covered with leaves. Others are trimmed to a length of 20-22 cm and
placed upright in prepared trenches, hot beds or similar area, where a constant
temperature of 15-21°C may be maintained. Plants are arranged so crowns are
about the same height, and then covered with 17-20 cm of dry loose soil. In 12
to 20 days marketable heads or chicons are produced, the most desirable heads
being 10-15 cm in diameter, weighing, 0.06-0.09 kg (Reed, 1976).
An average yield of chicory-root is about 11.25 MT/ha, although yields up to 27
MT/ha have been recorded. In 1943 United States production of chicory roots
was 200,000 tons, at a price of about $16/T: price for the local crops was
$.12/kg. Net returns are comparable/hg to sugar beets. In 1963 chicory prices
varied for a 1-1/9 bu. crate from $1.20 to $3.34, wholesale.
For alcohol production, chicory and Jerusalem artichoke, which both have a high
content of easily hydrolysed inulin, may have a technical advantage over
cellulose feedstocks that could be derived from perennial energy plantations.
However as cellulose hydrolysis methods improve, alcohol from cellulosic
feed-stocks may well become comparable in cost to that from grains and sugary,
inuliferous, or starchy feedstocks. In Europe, sugarbeet is likely to be
preferred among noncellulosic crops for alcohol production because the
carbohydrate is in an immediately fermentable form, whereas the starchy crops
like potato and Jerusalem artichoke do not offer better yields, yet require
hydrolysis as an extra step (Palz and Chartier, 1980).
Serious market diseases of chicory are bacterial soft rot and watery soft rot,
caused by Erwinia carotovora and Pseudomonas cichorii. Brown
heat cancer is caused by boron deficiency. Fuligo septica causes a
slime mold. Fungi known to attack chicory are: Alternaria cichorii, A.
tenuis, Ascochyta cichorii, Aspergillus ostianus, Botrytis cinerea, Bremia
lactucae (Downy mildew), Centrospora acerina, Cercospora cichorii,
Didymosphaeria exigua, Erysiphe cichoracearum, Fuligo septica (slime
mold), Leptosphaeria ogilviensis, Macrosporium commune, Marssonian
panattoniana, Mycosphaerella compositarum, M. tassiana, Phoma cichoracearum,
Phymatotrichum omnivorum, Pleospora herbarum, Puccinis cichorii, P. hieracii,
P. junci, P. littoralis, Ramularia cichorii, R. lampsanae, Sclerotinia
sclerotiorum, Sclerotium rolfsii, Septoria endiviae, S. intybi, Sphaerotheca
fuligines, S. humuli, Stagonospora vexata, Thielaviopsis basicola, Verticillium
dahliae, Pythium debaryanum, Corticium vagum. Viruses which are known to
attack chicory are: Argentine subflower, Cucumber mosaic, Spotted wilt, and
Yellows virus. The parasitic plants, Cuscuta epithymum and C.
pentagona, also attack chicory. The following nematodes have been isolated
from chicory plants: Ditylenchus dipsaci, H. scliachtii, Meloidogyne
arenaria, M. hapla, M. javanica, M. sp., Pratylenchus penetrans, P.
pratensis, Paratylenchus macrodorus, and Tylenchus sp. (Golden, p.c.,
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 1-61. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
- Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
- Hartwell, J.L. 1967-1971. Plants used against cancer. A survey. Lloydia 30-34.
- Palz, W. and Chartier, P. (eds.). 1980. Energy from biomass in Europe. Applied
Science Publishers Ltd., London.
- Reed, C.F. 1976. Information summaries on 1000 economic plants. Typescripts
submitted to the USDA.
last update July 8, 1996