Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wild Chicory

A moment of unadulterated happiness today: driving to the house of a friend in the pleasant anticipation of a birthday lunch date (her birthday, not mine); an air-conditioned car, small island of comfort in a sea of extreme humidity; one of Handel's concerti grossi, sprightly and cheerful, on the radio; and, to top it off, clouds and drifts of delicate lavender-blue flowers all along the way.

Wild chicory flourishes on the roadsides at this time of year. At its most beautiful on a sunny morning, it seems to require plenty of strong full natural light shining down from a clear sky. As the afternoon wears on, or if clouds roll in, the blossoms draw in the shutters and call it a day. The flowers I saw on this blue-skied morning had disappeared under the overcast afternoon conditions.

If, by some dire twist of economic fate, coffee beans were to disappear from the grocery store shelves, we could dig up chicory root, roast it, and use its grounds as a substitute. (Or Mr. M could. I don't drink coffee.) The leaves and roots can also be used to treat gastronomic and other ailments.

Chicory leads a precarious life. When the county road crews mow the verge, they cut it all down (philistines that they are). Beauty must give way to safety concerns.

In an attempt to capture a bit of that beauty, I once tried picking some for an indoor bouquet - but of course the blossoms closed up immediately. That elusiveness, and chicory's short-lived existence, make it all the more precious.

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  1. Yet another great post. You do write well! Our roadside purple/blue (or I guess it really is violet/blue) is blue flax, and I don't think it has as compelling a story behind it as your chicory. Yet it is beautiful.

    I especially enjoyed your description of the county road crews. I experience the same sour taste in my mouth when they mow the wild sunflowers along my cycling route!

  2. What a gorgeous shade of blue. Our councils also mow roadsides at inappropriate times which makes me seethe.

    We sometimes see Flax growing in large fields here, it also is a pretty colour and I wonder if it is still used to make linen or if it is grown for linseed.

  3. Just this morning, on my drive to work, I was admiring the fields and roadsides covered in this beautiful flower. As a little girl I would bring bunches home in hopes of having a bedside bouquet only to be dissappointed when they seem to shrivel away every time! Didn't know then that they needed the bright sunshine.

  4. Marvellous. Thank you so much for sharing. I treasure the delicate colour (like its nature)of wild chicory. Its ephemeral beauty... well don't start me on one of my favourite (thesis) topics. Suffice to say I firmly believe short-lived pleasures are some of the best.

    As for your choice of music, well, I am so happy to find another Baroque music fan...

    I hope your friend's birthday lunch was as pleasurable as your drive there.

  5. Thanks all! I believe we have flax here, but I don't see much of it.

    I think fleeting pleasures are some of the best, too.


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