This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Chtccory, Succory, or wild Endive, (Chicorium intybus,) is a perennial plant, with a large, very long, simple tap-root. The first year it produces only numerous radical leaves, six to eighteen inches long, two to four inches broad, narrower at the base, and serrated more or less. In the spring of the second year, a stalk shoots from the centre of the leaves, three to six feet high, with smaller leaves than the radical ones, branching, and bearing in the axilla of the small leaves pale blue, as well as azure-blue flowers, about three-quarters of an inch large. These flowers bloom successively for a long time every morning, and shut before noon. To these succeed oblong seeds, surmounted with a little scarious crown, and contained to the number of fifteen to eighteen in a common calice. It grows well on almost all soils, but particularly in those of a light sandy loam, the deeper the better, for in such the roots will attain the largest size.
The roots and leaves of chiccory have been used in medicine, as tonics and depuratives, to reestablish the appetite, promote diuretic action, etc. In Europe it is much cultivated in gardens for its leaves, which are in great request to eat as a salad, when young, and for which purpose the roots are taken up and planted in barrels or boxes in a cellar, where the leaves that shoot out of the crown become white, etiolated, and very crisp and tender.
This plant makes a most valuable fodder, which cows, horses, mules, oxen, or sheep eat readily, and it is largely cultivated for that purpose, to be eaten as a green fodder, particularly by cows. For this purpose it is sown in the spring, after a good plowing, broadcast with oats, at the rate of four or five pounds to the acre, so that the leaves speedily cover the ground and smother the weeds, and by which the leaves are mutually held upright, so as to be easily mown. The seed can be sown in the fall as well, but then the plants are apt to shoot to seed the next spring before the roots have got a large size, and the crop of leaves is smaller. That sown in the spring will give two to three cuttings the first year from July until winter, and four to six cuttings the next year, and produce at each cutting about a ton of excellent fodder; or it can be pastured. It will shoot up after each mowing, no matter how dry the season may be; and no plant will bring so large an amount of fodder per acre, except perhaps Lucerne, which is more difficult as to quality of soil and culture.
But chiccory is much cultivated in Europe chiefly for the roots, which constitute its most valuable use, and for this purpose they should be taken up at the end of the second year; as the object is to obtain the largest roots, a good deep soil should be chosen, and the seed sown thinner than for fodder; or in drills six to eight or twelve inches apart, so as to hoe and weed them the better, in order that the roots may acquire their greatest dimensions.
A few years ago I took up some roots that had been growing for three years in a light, sandy, deep soil, not manured, that were about three feet long, and at the collar as thick as my wrist; one acre of such roots would produce at the rate of nearly fifty tons.
Thus when it is intended to raise chiccory for its roots, for making the chiccory or succory of commerce, they should be taken up at the end of the second year, cutting or mowing off the leaves first at the collar; and as chiccory is not affected by the frost, they can be \left in the ground as long as the open state of the winter will permit; or when it is feared that the severity of the winter would prevent the free taking up of the roots, they can be taken up at the end of the fall and stored in sand, from which they can be obtained at all times during the winter. When taken up they must be washed, dried, then sliced in pieces, and roasted in an oven, till they acquire the color of roasted coffee or chocolate, and become brittle; they are then ground fine, packed in rolls or squares of paper, containing from one half to one pound each, or packed loose in barrels or casks. In the drying and roasting the fresh roots will lose twenty-five to thirty per cent.
Let us now suppose one acre to produce at the end of two years twenty tons of roots, or 40,000 lbs.; the loss by drying and roasting thirty per cent; this will leave a net produce of 28,000 lbs., which, at 2 1/2 cents per pound, wholesale price, will bring $700. By deducting for all expenses of seed, labor of plowing, harrowing, sowing, taking up roots, interest on land, washing, drying, roasting, grinding, packing, labels, casks, carting, etc., the sum of $150, which is rather a large estimate, it still would leave a profit of $550 per acre, independent of the fodder obtained for two years, worth between sixty to seventy dollars at least.
Chiccory has been for many years, and is now, extensively imported into the United States from Belgium, France, Germany, etc, and is much used here to mix with coffee in different proportions; some mixing one fourth, while most mix one half, and some use it exclusively as coffee; the use of it is now become universal, and the importations of it increasing.
It abounds in a bitter juice, possessing a tonic property, and has a distinct smell of liquorice; its empyreumatic volatile oil, evolved during the roasting, exerts upon the system a diuretic and gently exciting influence, and reestablishes the appetite; taken in moderation, it is perfectly wholesome.
I shall be glad to impart any additional particulars that may be required.
[We do not believe in adulterations of any kind, though chiccory is one of the most innocent. It is grown among us at present chiefly as a salad. It is now, however, so largely in demand, that in many sections it might be extensively grown with profit, and is therefore worthy of attention as a farm crop. We should not, however, expect to realize the sums above named. - Ed].