Can you make Chicory Coffee with the roots from the wild roadside plants? And if so, how?
My aunt, who is an avid bicyclist, told me the other day that after gazing at fields upon fields of chicory during her recent rides, she decided she wanted to try to make coffee with it. She remembers her parents drinking only chicory during the War, when coffee wasn't easily available. She has seen it for sale but only at gourmet shops at very high prices, which is what made her think of it. She has the impression there may be health benefits too.
She was assuming you brewed the leaves like tea. I told her I am pretty sure you have to dig up the roots and roast them, then maybe grind it up? Anyway it's not common around here, so hoping someone elsewhere can tell me what she needs to know. I myself would like to get into foraging, so this may be an easy place to start. Or maybe the wild stuff might not be the best idea?
You are correct that it is the root which is used for "coffee". Roots are harvested after flowering season is over. I'll paraphrase from Billy Joe Tatum's "Wild Foods Cookbook & Field Guide"
After roots are well scrubbed place on a rack and let dry for several weeks. She recommends an attic, but any dark dry spot seems good. Once roots are dry chop them. Place in a 300 degree oven for approx 3 hrs. until they are crisp. Using a coffee grinder or grain mill process the cooled roots to a medium grind.
Her coffee recipe specifies using a percolator. 8 cups water with 4 Tb. each of ground chicory and ground dark roast coffee.
She notes that the very young leaves in spring are edible. They are quite bitter so she recommends boiling with two changes of water and treating as you would any green. The older leaves are tough and fibrous.
Due to the environmental toxins found beside car path locations it is best to forage at least 50 ft. from the road.