What plant is chicoria, the green Italians revere but the rest of the world disregards as a "weed"?

I go out of my way in Italy to find chicoria on the menu. On a recent trip, a local told me only the Italians understand the merits of what some people consider a weed. I love weeds! Give me chlorophyl-rich food like leaves & I am happy as a slug. Can someone please help me identify the plant so that while wandering on foot I will spot dinner & avoid trampling a humble vegetable? Thanks.

  • Posted by: eliza
  • October 4, 2017


702551 October 4, 2017
This plant is common chicory, Cichorium intybus which is unfortunately often confused with Cichorium endivia.

The two most commonly grown cultivars of Cichorium endivia are curly endive (often confusingly called curly chicory in the USA) and escarole.

Cichorium intybus has multiple cultivars, the common ones being radicchio, the puntarelle subfamily (including Catalogna), and Belgium endive (the ghostly white leaf plant that is cultivated in complete darkness).

When an Italian is talking about cicoria, they are talking about Cichorium intybus.

Read the Wikipedia entries for both species.

Much confusion is a direct result of ambiguous common American names of various cultivars.

Note that dandelion, while related, is a completely different genus but all fall under the Asteraceae family.
Stephanie B. October 4, 2017
Chicory. It is readily available on roadsides, unkempt lawns, etc. I find chicory greens to be even more bitter than dandelion, but to each their own..
eliza October 4, 2017
Hmm. The chicory growing on the roadside -- the one in bloom now with the periwinkle blue flowers whose roots are used as a coffee substitute (as if...) -- is not the same as the cicoria used as a leafy green. I believe cicoria is a different plant. After I posted my question, hounded by a burning desire to become more intimate with this green, I discovered the value of this plant throughout history, from the ancients onward. However, I did not discover where I can find it growing wild in the U.S.
Stephanie B. October 4, 2017
Part of the confusion might be that there's a lot of things classified as "cicoria," and I'm not sure which chicory relative you're referring to. I've seen recipes that call for common roadside chicory (really not my favorite ingredient though). cv went into chicory types, and most of these are readily available in grocery stores. I only dabble in foraging and I'm no expert, but I've never seen wild versions of these grocery store regulars in the mid-atlantic US.
Stephanie B. October 4, 2017
Maybe this blog post is closer to what you're referring to? https://racheleats.wordpress.com/category/cicoria/
AntoniaJames October 4, 2017
I believe you are referring to "Cicoria," which is related to dandelions. Many search results are here, which you may find helpful: https://www.google.com/search?biw=1842&bih=1381&q=what+is+cicoria&oq=what+is+cicoria&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2.26762.26762.0.27026. ;o)
eliza October 4, 2017
Yes, cicoria. Maybe I need a field guide now.

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