Community Coffee, Chicory, and Amaranth

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Wild Edible Plants
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In my wild edible plants class, I learned about chicory and amaranth. It has been so dry here, that everything was pretty dead, but with the little bit of rain we had, a few things came to life; hence we’re back outside looking for things to eat πŸ™‚

Chicory (Chicorium Intybus), sometimes called Bachelor’s Button, is a common plant you see all along roadsides with the blue flowers. It’s a perennial flower in the Asteraceae, or sunflower, family, which also includes dandelions.

Thankfully, we have a lot of chicory growing at the bottom of our driveway and also along a sidewalk I always ride my bike on, so I was able to gather what I needed very easily.

It turns out the most common use for this plant is the drying, roasting, and grinding of the large taproots. These grounds are used to make chicory coffee. In fact, one type of coffee we used to buy used chicory in its brew.

I dried my roots for a week, roasted them slowly in the oven, and then ground them up and made myself a cup of coffee. It was actually pretty good. It was bitter, like coffee, and had a pretty nice flavor. I’m actually drying some more roots now. The roots I have now are bigger and better than my first batch, and I’m hoping my coffee will be better too.

The other plant I ate recently was an Amaranthus Retroflexus, or common amaranth. I boiled some leaves and stems and ate them with some salt. I did not like the leaves as they had a rather veiny texture, but the tender stems were very good. I attempted to harvest amaranth seeds and make a hot cereal out of it, but I failed and I won’t bore you with how/why I failed. I’m going to try again, though, because I like the taste of the seeds. They are very shiny black, and they remind me of poppy seeds.

So far, I am having a lot of fun in this class. I am reading all about acorns now, because soon, that is what I will be collecting (and eating).

  1. Cynthia says:

    This is cool! I might have to try chicory. I tried to grow amaranth once because I like the cereal but it was a big fail.

    • It’s very hard to get a good harvest from the seeds. I had a lot of trouble separating the chaff from the seeds, and by the time I had tried using a strainer, switched to winnowing, and switched back to using a strainer, the total amount of seeds would have made about a mouthful of cereal πŸ˜€

      It’s cool that you’ve tried it, though. What did the cereal taste like?

      • Cynthia says:

        The cereal is really good, kind of nutty and this sounds gross but a little gelatinous. You have to cook it in a lot of water for a long time to get it to absorb the water and be tender. I like it with salt and butter.
        It’s cool because its such an ancient grain and has a very high nutritional profile.

      • Ah. Yes, my book did have some very impressive nutrition facts about Amaranth.

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