This tough, blue-eyed plant is a rugged survivor (aka, a weed). Chicory (Cichorium intybus) thrives on the edges of human activity: roadsides and empty lots. It was originally native to Europe, but now it is so well established across North America that it often is described as “naturalized”.
Chicory also has a long relationship with people as a food. It’s roots–roasted, toasted and ground–are a renowned coffee substitute. They also can be cooked and eaten like parsnips. The bitter leaves are used in salads or spaghetti; they are less bitter in the wintertime. Because chicory plants have plenty of inulin (a type of starch that diabetics can’t digest) they are a recommended food for people trying to limit their glucose.
Their pretty blue flowers are light sensitive, opening at dawn and closing by the afternoon.