Origin, Distribution and Composition
Chicory, or endive, is a perennial herb with a long tap root. It has
condensed, round stems, numerous light or dark green leaves and pale blue
flowers. The leaves have a bitter taste; flowers open at sunrise and close
Chicory is native to the Mediterranean region or, possibly, eastern India.
It was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and was cultivated in Egypt
over 2000 years ago. The ancient physicians employed the plant in the
treatment of several ailments. Classical writers like Horace, Virgil, Ovid
and Pliny mentioned its use as a vegetable and a salad ingredient. Some
scholars thought that the name succory came from the Latin succurrene
- which means to run under - because of the deep roots. Another
suggestion is that succory may be a corruption of chicory, or cichorium, a
word of Egyptian origin. Chicory has been mentioned as a special skin
nourish by ancient herbalists. A tea made from the pale blue flowers of
this plant was said to give glowing skin.
An analysis of chicory or endive leaves shows them to consist of 93.0 per
cent moisture, 1.7 per cent protein, 0.1 per cent fat, 0.9 per cent fiber
and 4.3 per cent carbohydrate per 100 grams. Its mineral and vitamin
contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin,
niacin and vitamin C. Its calorific value is 20.
Chicory flowers contain a glucoside chichorin and bitter substances,
lactucin and intbin. Seeds contain a bland oil and roots contain nitrate
and sulphate of potash, mucilage and some bitter principle.