Chicory resists loving care


You would think something as lovely as chicory would be an asset to anyone’s flower garden. Alas, those gorgeous blue roadside blossoms wheeze, gasp and die when dug up from their rocky, arid and anemic habitat and transplanted in rich soil.

At least five times in recent years I have been unable to resist that raw blue beauty along some country road and have dug up the plants for my garden. The longest any of them lasted was three days. None ever survived.

That neither makes sense nor seems fair. All living things respond to love, and I truly love chicory. Yet, plant after plant summarily rejects my soft words, tilled soil and sweet fertilizer. Like rugged pioneers of old who were weaned on strife, they seem to prefer hardship to the easy life.

In case you didn’t know, chicory has been around for a long time. It is a second cousin to endive, a popular salad ingredient. The roots, when dried and baked, are ground up and added to coffee. This makes the coffee bitter, but some folks, especially those inNew Orleans, seem to like it. During World War II when coffee literally wasn’t available, folks made a substitute out of chicory. Everyone I’ve talked to says it was terrible.

Chicory has a two-year life cycle. It blooms the second year and then dies. So, the ones blooming along the roadsides this year were there last year, we just didn’t see them.

The bottom line is: I have now given up trying to cultivate chicory in my flower beds.

As an ironic postscript, when walking to the mailbox the other day, I noticed a lovely blue flower blooming next to my driveway. You guessed it – chicory.