So, I started my second annual "detox diet" this past Monday. Think: Whole30, but with limited grains and some beans and legumes, and allowing myself raw honey and occasional maple syrup. One thing I like to do is include a month-long complete coffee detox. In my eyes, if I'm trying to rid myself of sugar/carb/dairy cravings and addiction, and foods that affect my ability to be mindful, my coffee addiction MUST be addressed, at least once annually. 3 days in and I still haven't managed to kick coffee (although I have switched to coconut and almond milk in my coffee with raw honey). I've come to terms with the fact that I need a coffee substitute to kick coffee this time - and what better substitute than Chicory. According to the "Coffee Wiki" website, the quick history of chicory goes like this:
"Chicory was first roasted and used in coffee in Holland around the year 1750. In a short period of time, it became a popular replacement for coffee. By 1785, James Bowdoin, the governor of Massachusetts had first introduced it to the United States. In 1806, Napoleon attempted to make France completely self-sufficient. To eliminate coffee imports, chicory was used as a complete substitute. While this system did not last more than a few years, the French continued to use chicory to blend with their coffee. This practice would migrate to the still French-influenced New Orleans and is still considered the normal New Orleans-style of coffee.By the late 19th century, chicory had become not just a popular substitute, but also a common adulterant, with many coffee companies including a significant amount of the lower costing chicory in products advertised as coffee. The practice of deceptively cutting coffee with chicory became so common that the New York Times opined that pure coffee could no longer be found."
You can of course buy chicory from most stores, but I knew exactly where to find the dried-out remains of this beautiful blue flower that blooms all along the roads close to our house in the Spring and Summer. I remember seeing them everywhere during my early morning walks with William and Emma. Luckily, it was an unseasonably warm day in Upstate NY (above 40F), and I was able to pull one of the long taproots right out of the ground (note: I did pick up the trash on the ground in the empty lot from which I dug up the plant ;) ).
After I got it home and double-checked my identification resources (winter plants can be tricky because you're basically IDing it from a dried out skeleton devoid of most color, leaves, flowers, etc.), I chopped off the root, discarded the upper part of the plant, and I dried the taproot out for a couple days (just left it in my mud room. ~~Side note: although it may seem like common sense, it's interesting to point out that fall and winter root vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals even after the above-ground plant "dies", because that's where all the nutrients are stored until next Spring. That's why most plants with long taproots are perrenials (including trees), and also why weeds like dandelions and the like are so tricky to get rid of.~~ After the root dried out, I chopped it up, roasted it in the oven on a baking tray at 300F for about an hour until it browned and dried out completely, but before it burned (The smell during roasting is amazing! Like a mixture between roasting coffee and warm butter...). Then, I put it in a grinder until it was very finely chopped, added a little more than a tablespoon of chicory grinds in a mug, added boiling water, and let it steep for about 10 minutes. I've also heard you can put it right in a coffee maker and brew just like coffee. Voila! A tasty caffeine-free coffee substitute rich in "vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron-folic acid, and potassium, as well as vitamin A, B6, C, E, and K". You can bet we'll be making another chicory foraging trip next time the ground isn't completely frozen!
My love for foraging is growing like a weed (pun intended). I love teaching my children that every time you set foot outside, you have everything you need and more. I love learning and passing on the knowledge and skills to utilize all that surrounds us in nature. I love how using the wild plants right in our own backyard and community makes me appreciate the land around me more than I ever have (if you live in Upstate NY, you totally get that without the realization of how beautiful our environment is, it might be difficult finding other economic or practical reasons to appreciate this area...). I love how foraging, gardening, and eating local foods and seasonally ties me to my environment, creating a sense of harmony and balance, and helps me feel grounded, even throughout the seemingly endless floating winter months.
Thanks for reading - I hope you enjoyed this article! Love and blessings for a happy, healthy rest of the winter.