Chicory is a member of the sunflower family, and its leaves are edible, bitter, and pungent. These chicory berries, native to France and some parts of Europe, contain a rich content of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, minerals, and vitamins. It has been used for centuries as a vegetable, a spice, and even as a foodstuff for ingestion. But in the United States, this chicory herb is mostly used for its extract, which is extracted from chicory berries through means that range from heat to cold processing.
The seeds of the chicory plant are pungent and slightly bitter, hence the name of chicory seeds. They are commonly used for flavoring foods and cooking because of their pleasant flavor. In Europe, these seeds have been used as an ingredient of several meals. They have been used as a popular alternative to sugar for dessert, or to add a flavor to bread and cakes. In the United States, they are popular for adding flavor to petite pastries and cookies, as well as for flavoring juices and coffees.
Today, chicory is grown extensively for its seeds. It is available at most health food stores and can also be purchased online. The seeds are ground into flour and mixed with milk, eggs, sugar, and flavors to create a pasteurized, flavored liquid, called cream. When used in baking, cream gives baked items a smoother texture and richer flavor.
There are two varieties of chicory seeds used in American cooking: black chicory and red chicory. Each variety has a distinct and distinctive flavor. Black chicory seeds are typically used for seasoning and adding flavor to meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables. Red chicory seeds are more commonly used for stuffing and making breads. In addition to their use as ingredients, chicory seeds are also used to extract the herb's beneficial properties for medicinal purposes.
Chicory seeds contain many healthful and antiseptic qualities. They contain significant amounts of potassium and magnesium, as well as trace minerals such as iron, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and iodine. These nutrients and trace elements are important to good overall health. Chicory seed oil is beneficial to the heart, liver, stomach, pancreas, and blood vessels. In addition to being a rich source of monounsaturated fats, chicory seeds are an excellent source of polyunsaturated fats, which are essential to the health of the colon, the liver, and the bloodstream. Chicory seeds are also a source of dietary fiber, which helps to regulate bowel movements and increase the amount of energy and nutrients absorbed by the body.
Although most chefs will tell you that there is no substitute for fresh herbs when it comes to cooking, many people fail to recognize the inherent flavor of dried chicory seeds. Dried seeds retain much of their original flavor, but they lose some of their nutritional value. In order to retain some of the same benefits as fresh seeds, grind your chicory seeds to make a fine paste. Chicory root is often used in gourmet meals such as breads, crackers, vegetable dishes, pasta sauces, gravies, and casseroles. The herb is often found in combination with oregano and garlic for dishes with strong, spicy flavors.
Like other members of the chicory genus, the herb is cultivated primarily for its edible seeds. Today, chicory seeds are grown for both consumption and selling. Although this herb is now grown in many parts of the world, it originally grew up in Europe. Today, many chefs use it to add a robust taste to flour and breads, scrambled eggs, and omelets. In addition to these uses, some people even use the herb to make tea, juice, or potable water.
Even though the seeds of chicory contain numerous healthful and flavor enhancing properties, the herb is also cultivated for other reasons. There are two common uses for the seeds: first, they are sometimes used in traditional wine and cider blends as a replacement for red wine. Second, some people crush the seeds and make cookies or other baked goods with them. Whatever their other uses may be, one thing is certain: seeds of chives are versatile and will please any palate.