Chicory is a vegetable in a plant that is woody in nature and usually grows with bright blue flowers; some of it can be pink or white. You can harvest chicory to get its seeds, leaves, or roots.
Although chicory leaves can be harvested at any given time during the grooming season, they have a better taste during the early spring. Summertime is the perfect time for collecting seeds or cooking chicory. You can find them growing around rural roadsides, fields, and even in the wild.
In this article, you will be shown the right and proper way to harvest Chicory.
Step 1 of 4
1. Put on protective clothing.
Chicory normally grows in areas where ticks are many, so for safety, put on long pants, socks, and a hat. You can also put on garden gloves for protection against small bees.
- Putting on a bug repellent might also be useful if you discover the place is infested with bugs.
2. Search for chicory in sunny locations.
Chicory grows normally in moist and cool conditions; you can get chicory in places like vacant city lots, fields, disturbed ground, alongside rural roads and gardens.
When collecting chicory, ensure not to do so in places where there is a private property sign; if you are unsure whether there is permission to harvest chicory from somewhere, enquire from your local authorities.
3. Check if the plant is chicory.
Chicory grows in different varieties, but it is mainly known for its ragged petals (its bright blue color), but sometimes they can be either pink or white.
The leaves are narrow and thin, and it looks very much like dandelion leaves; the branch stem joints are about eight centimeters and, when mature, can be up to two centimeters in diameter.
If you are not sure the plant you are about to harvest is a chicory plant, you can consult an online plant database or field guide.
Step 2 of 4
Harvesting the Roots
1. Harvest chicory roots from autumn through spring.
For you to get the best of the roots while harvesting chicory, you should plant it after March, and before getting to mid-May, you can harvest them from the first day of September to mid-November.
2. Hold the head of the plant and pull upwards slowly.
You can use a hand trowel to gently remove the roots from the ground without destroying or scattering them; the root might be as deep as 65cm to the ground, so you should dig gently until you can remove it from the ground.
3. Preserve the roots.
Cut off about two inches from the top of the root that might not be usable, and store them in a wet condition for 12 to 13 weeks.
4. Prepare the roots for use.
Clean the roots with a soft brush, and then slice them into little pieces with a sharp knife on a cutting plate. You can also decide to use them for brewing or roasting, but before that, you have to grind them into a liquid with a really strong grinder.
5. If the need is urgent, harvest the root in spring.
Trying to force vegetables can only be effective when they are moved to an artificial growing environment. Here is how you can move them:
- Dig out roots that have a body of at least 2 inches in diameter, and leave the leaves intact
- Avoid brushing them because it might lead to rot.
- Put the leaves in a cool dark place like a garden, a greenhouse, or a box of sand.
- Leave them there and avoid freezing them until they are needed.
Step 3 of 4
Harvesting the Leaves
1. Trim premature leaves in the autumn.
Chicory leaves are consumable and less bitter throughout the growing season, but after spring, they become bitter.
- Look for leaves that are about 8 inches in height and cut them, and then harvest fully after 70 days.
- If you want to use the leaves after spring, you can reduce the bitterness by boiling them.
2. Take the entire plant or just the top.
Plants with the top broken off will either add nutrients to the soil or regrow, so use hand clippers to cut off the plant’s top.
- If you decide to keep the whole plant, pull the plant up gently while harvesting until the roots are out of the ground completely.
3. Wash the leaves very well.
After harvesting the leaves, ensure to rinse it very well with running water; you can wash it at least up to three times. After washing, use a paper towel to clean the surface and remove the dead leaves from it.
4. Get the leaves dry.
After thorough washing, shake off the water from the leaves or, better still, put it in a basket to dry up.
5. Preserve the leaves.
Ensure that the leaves do not freeze up; you can use a tight plastic bag to keep it in the refrigerator for 10 years.
Step 4 of 4
Collecting the seeds
1. Choose healthy plants to collect the seeds from.
Select those plants that have grown freely without anyone trimming them; ensure to collect them from the month of July because that is the best period for planting. So, choose a dry morning when the dew is no longer there and harvest those seeds.
- Because of small bees that enjoy chicory, you are advised to put on gardening gloves.
2. Extract those seeds from the plants that are dried.
Look for seeds that are hidden between bunches of leaves; you can use a needle or a pair of tiny tweezers to carefully extract the seeds. Another way to do it is to hit the seedpods continuously with an object. When you are done, remove the waste and extract the seeds.
3. Dry the plants.
Chicory plants can be dried the same way herbs are dried; tie them in small bunches close to the end of the stem. Wrap them in a paper bag that you can use in collecting fallen seeds. Place them where there are enough air and no direct contact to sunlight.
Chicory can be used for culinary and medical purposes. Whichever purpose you decide to use the plant for, ensure to use the steps in this article to harvest them properly.
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