Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicory - The Watcher of the Road

Chicory - Coffeeweed

     Chicory is an introduced plant that goes by a variety of names and has many stories surrounding it. It has been used for food, medicine, dyes, and magic by many cultures. It is most famous for its use as a coffee substitute, why it is sometimes called Coffeeweed. The flowers are usually blue and open only during the morning, closing up in the heat of day to protect their nectar. This trait has led to many of the legends and stories surrounding this flower.
     One such tale out of Germany relates to why they sometimes call it Wegewarte, meaning "Watcher of the Road." It is said that a beautiful young girl that was recently married promised her husband that she would wait for him to return from war in his favorite blue dress by the side of the road. Every morning she stood by the side of the road in her dress, but he never did return. Heart-broken but always faithful to her promise, she eventually turned into the Wegewarte, the Watcher of the Road.

Wegewarte - The Watcher of the Road

     In another legend, a beautiful maiden refused the advances of the Sun. For this refusal, she was turned into a chicory flower, doomed to stare into the sun every morning only to fade by mid-day under his gaze.
     In yet another story, a beautiful girl falls in love with a sailor who had to go back to sea. She waited patiently for his return, not knowing he had drowned. The gods in pity turned her into this plant, bearing the colors of his sailor's uniform to this day. This had led to alternate names for chicory: Blue Sailors and Ragged Sailors. 

Ragged Sailors closed after mid-day

     Its most common name of Chicory relates to an Egyptian word for "January" which was the month it was most harvested. Blue Weed and Blue Daisy are less complimentary.
     This plant has also been used as important elements in magic as well. Witches supposedly used it to transform into rabbits. To others it was said to lend invisibility. During gold rushes, miners would carry it in their pockets for good luck. But perhaps the most unusual magical use had to do with lock picking. It was said to be able to open any locked chest by holding a gold knife and chicory up to the lock. This ability would only function however on St. James' Day, July 25, and only if performed in complete silence.
     In this day and age, Chicory is mostly regarded as a weed, only noticed when in bloom for the most part. It may not be native, but is now widespread, watching us from the side of the road.


  1. Hey Alonso, was chicory also used as a coffee substitute?

  2. Yes, that is its most famous use. I did mention that in the description. Its roots were dried for this function and roasted. Thanks.

  3. I remember this growing all over the place in Germany!