Chicory was originally grown in Europe, specifically for its root. It was served many different ways - baked, stir-fried, or poached. Then by the 18th century, the root was roasted and added to the coffee, correcting the over-stimulation of coffee.
Considered a bitter veggie, it carries with it anti-inflammatory & sedating properties, as well as a good regulator of blood sugar. Different parts of this wonderful plant have different uses and flavors. The pale heads of chicory with their slight bitter flavor make excellent salads. The heads, during the growing stage, are covered to prevent an increase of their bitter nature. These bitters are excellent blood thinner compounds along with anti-inflammatory ones.
Chicory also contains a fiber called Inulin, which helps feed the natural probiotics in the gut. It's called "prebiotics". This fiber also helps manage sugar levels in the blood.
The root of the chicory plant is similar to Dandelion, something called a taproot. Both dried and roast, it makes an excellent coffee substitute. Unroasted, a decoction of the root helps with jaundice, liver enlargements, gout and rheumatic complaints.
Being a "cooling herb", constant use of any part of the herb too frequently, would eventually cause congestion of the intestines and heat and increased blood flow to the head.
Baked Chicory wrapped in Prosciutto
8 chicory heads
8-10 very thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4-1/2 cup of grated cheese
For the Cream sauce
4 oz Mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cup of broth (chicken or vegetable)
Using a sharp knife, remove the core at the base of the chicory. Discard any wilted leaves. Rinse and dry.
Saute the chicory for 3-4 minutes in butter. Wrap each head in 1 slice of Prosciutto. Place them all in a single layer in an oven proof dish.
Pour over chicory and prosciutto, the blended ingredients for the sauce. Top with the grated cheese. Bake at 350 until bubbly and golden. Enjoy!