Where have chicory flowers gone?

Sunday, September 2, 2001

I have lost my chicory patches. Why did they get up and go from their old familiar places? Did the heavy truck pulls and fair traffic pulverize the roots to extinction?

My patch of chicory grew in the gravely roadside at the south end of the park. Every year, on my former daily walks, it caught my attention when the first blue blossoms presented themselves to the world. If they were trying to compete with the flowers brought to the fair they wouldn't have had a chance for a blue or red ribbon. Not even a white ribbon, for the flowers were small and sparse on a slim, slightly jointed stalk. Even making an arrangement of them looks awkward. But if they were competing for blue color, they would easily have made Best of the Show, hands down. Their blossoms are the purest blue that ever was. The only other blue-blossoming flower that could come close to its hue is the Heavenly Blue Morning-glory.

I'm not sure I have tasted chicory. But I possibly have. Mixed with ground coffee is its chief offering in the food and beverage line to mankind. The roots are dried and ground and mixed with the coffee. Indeed, sometimes brewed without the addition of coffee.

My grandmother, having come from the Elizabethan English speaking communities of the Blue Ridge country, probably added chicory to the coffee, chicory having come to America by way of Great Britain. When she moved, along with her family, to the Ozarks, she more than likely searched for chicory roots to enliven her morning brew. Although I didn't drink coffee at that young age when Grandmother lived with us, I'm sure I, clandestinely, sipped a spoonful or two to see what adults found so satisfying about it.

It is unlawful now to mix ground chicory roots with store bought coffee. I don't know what the penalty would be for disobeying the Pure Food Law. That isn't on my list of things to worry about.

Old Troll who lived under the wooden bridge may have dug up all the nearby chicory roots in my path and taken them along with him when he vacated the creek bank because they tore his bridge down.

I wonder if the chubby, old, bearded character is somewhere up or downstream, chuckling at the delay in the construction of the new bridge across the creek in his old habitat. As he dips a piece of chicory root into the water and sucks on it, he's probably muttering, "They didn't ask me. I could have told them where the bed rock was."

REJOICE!

Jean Bell Mosley is an author and longtime resident of Cape Girardeau.

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