Grow Your Own Chicory Root: A Natural Anti-Inflammatory Herb
If you’ve never considered growing chicory root before, I highly recommend it, because this cold-hardy plant has incredible anti-inflammatory properties! There are a lot of creative ways to consume it, most notably as a coffee substitute, and it’s surprisingly easy to grow. There are plenty of different varieties grown for different things — some are grown for their leaves, which we know as Belgian endives, but the Whitloof variety is the one harvested for its powerful roots.
If a healthy, tasty coffee substitute with powerful healing properties sounds like something you’d like to get your hands on, here’s how you can start growing anti-inflammatory chicory root in Edmonton.
Growing Anti-Inflammatory Chicory Root
You can directly sow your chicory seeds into the soil a few weeks before the threat of frost has passed. Chicory’s growth habit is quite similar to that of lettuce greens, so if you’re familiar with growing those, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Make sure your soil is loose and moist, with some compost mixed in there to give your plants a good ol’ nutrient boost.
Pick a spot that gets tons of sun — full sun is required when you’re growing chicory for its root, whereas partial sun is better for those who plan on harvesting the endives. Make shallow furrows in the soil spaces two feet apart, only about 1/16 of an inch deep, and scatter the seeds about a half-inch apart. Lightly sprinkle some soil on top, and then mist them generously with some water. Don’t use the hose on its regular setting, because that will cause the seeds to float up and get out of line. Instead, use a mist setting on your hose to make sure the watering is delicate, yet thorough enough to moisten the soil.
Within one to three weeks, your seedlings will have begun to sprout! Ordinarily, if you were growing them for the leaves, you would just leave them be, but since you’re growing them for the root, you’ll want to thin out the weaker ones and leave the stronger ones standing about six inches apart. Spread some mulch onto the ground to help conserve moisture, because you’ll need to water your plants with about two inches of water per week, and the mulch will help to prevent the sun from drying it all up. It will also help to prevent weeds, which are notorious for soaking up all the nutrients your plant needs to develop properly. Applying a high-nitrogen fertilizer will also be of great use to your plants, or you can grow beans as companion plants since they naturally fix nitrogen in the soil.
As your plants grow, they’ll start sprouting cute blue flowers. As tempted as you may be to let them continue growing, if left for too long, these vigorous growers will begin to self-sow and will end up taking over your garden. Nip them off regularly, and you should be fine. Then, in about 75–90 days, your chicory should be ready to harvest! The crown should be about seven inches wide, and the taproot will be around nine inches long. Pull them up just like you would a carrot, wash them, and cook them within a few days. They don’t keep as long as other veggies, so don’t leave them sitting for too long before using them. Once they’re roasted, you can grind it up and use it as a herbal supplement, or as an energizing, coffee-like hot drink!
What Is Anti-Inflammatory Chicory Root Good For?
While it can be boiled and eaten just like any other root vegetable, if you want to use it as a regular health supplement, your best bet is to cube it, roast it, and grind it into a powder. This way, you can easily mix it into beverages, or even just some hot water, as a tasty drink that’s packed with health benefits. Some people even use it to flavour home-brewed stout beers!
In terms of medicinal purposes, popular chicory uses include:
- Blood pressure management
- Constipation relief
- Appetite regulation and weight loss
- Reduction in caffeine consumption
- Blood sugar regulation
- Gut flora balance
- Maintaining good heart, liver and gallbladder health
- Relieving swelling through topical application
Ready to start growing your own instant “coffee”? Spring is well on its way, and it’s almost time to start sowing those seeds, so head down to Salisbury to get yours!