Chicory is not exactly the most popular vegetable among Germans. This is due to its bitter taste. However, it is precisely this that makes the vegetable so healthy. In addition, because of the bitter taste, you can make substitute coffee from the root chicory.
However, the bitter substances are not the only healthy thing about the leafy vegetable. Chicory also contains many vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it is definitely worth giving the vegetable a chance.
The origin, properties and history of chicory
Nowadays, when we think of chicory, we think directly of the use of the leaves of the vegetable. However, this was not always the case. In the past, it was not the leaves that were used, but the roots of the vegetable, also known as chicory roots. These were believed to have healing properties, as they were considered sudorific, appetizing and laxative. Also, the root helped with gastrointestinal complaints and diseases of the gall bladder, spleen and liver. Especially popular was and is the use root for the preparation of substitute coffee, also called muckefuck.
Therefore, the usefulness of the leaves became known relatively late. The discovery of the buds of chicory can be traced back to the Belgians in the 19th century. It is said that they had stored chicory roots in a dark greenhouse after a successful harvest. So after a while they discovered the buds, which are known to us today as chicory leaves.
The pale yellow color of the vegetable is due to its method of cultivation. For the bitter substance intybin to form, it must be grown in the dark.
The vegetable is now grown throughout Europe, but also in North Africa and the Orient. The classic pale yellow chicory is in season during the cold seasons and is therefore a popular winter vegetable, tasting tart, sweetish and slightly bitter at the same time. The milder-tasting and reddish chicory, on the other hand, is in season in spring. Basically, the main season of both varieties can be narrowed down to October to April.
The ingredients of chicory
The vegetable is especially known by those who eat a low-carb diet. Because per 100 g there are just 16 kcal. In addition, it has no fat. In addition to the few carbohydrates and calories, chicory also contains many vitamins and minerals. Particularly noteworthy are folic acid, potassium, carotenoids and bitter substances.
The effect of chicory on our body
The winter vegetables contain many ingredients that have a positive effect on our body. Especially the contained bitter substance intybin influences our body in several ways. On the one hand, it promotes digestion and stimulates the production of gastric acid. It also improves the flow of bile, which is especially important for fat digestion. Other positive effects of bitter substances:
- bitter substances stimulate the appetite
- promote the flow of saliva
- lead to increased insulin production
- strengthen the immune system
- have antipyretic effect
- have an antidepressant effect
- can help with exhaustion, fatigue and stress
Chicory also contains fiber and the sugar inulin. Both ingredients can contribute to the prevention of intestinal diseases, such as colon cancer. The bright leaves, on the other hand, can have a diuretic effect and therefore play a role in regulating the acid-bath balance.
Chicory in the kitchen
Like most vegetables, chicory can be prepared in various ways. It can be boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw. However, the most popular way is to prepare the vegetable into a salad with a honey or fruit juice dressing, such as chicory orange salad or chicory salad with tangerines.
To soften the bitter taste of chicory, you have two options:
- Cut out the stalk in a wedge shape. This is where most of the bitter substances are found.
- Soak the leaves in lukewarm salt water or milk for a few minutes. This softens the bitter taste. However, the healthy effect of the bitter substances can also be lost.
Purchase and storage of chicory
Chicory is best bought as fresh as possible. As with other vegetables, you can tell when they are fresh by looking at the leaves. These should look fresh and crisp. However, if you cannot prepare the vegetable right away, it should be stored in a dark and cool place. Light can cause the chicory to discolor and spoil more quickly. To prevent this, you can wrap it in a damp kitchen towel and store it in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Under optimal conditions, it can be kept fresh for up to a week.