At first glance, it is not obvious that chicory (Cichorium intybus) is the mother of radicchio and sugar loaf. However, if these popular vegetables were on sale in flower, the relationship would be easily recognisable.
The same goes for endive, to which it is also closely related.
Cichorium intybus is a perennial that can grow to a height of 1.2 metres and, here in Central Europe, produces blue flowers from July to October. Occasionally, white or pink flowering chicory can also be seen.
Chicory is found almost everywhere in the world, having been spread by humans. Its original distribution is in Europe, North Africa and Asia (source).
Cichorium intybus is often found in urban areas, where it can grow along roadsides or on steps. It also grows on embankments, dams, meadows, field margins and fields.
The leaves of the wild species are also edible. When harvested young. They become tough and firm with age. Chicory is loved – or hated – for its bitter compounds.