What is it? Chicory is a versatile, edible, flowering plant. The leaves are used for salad, and the roots can be found in coffee as an additive (or a substitute in some cases). With Houston's proximity to New Orleans, we usually think of the famous coffee at Café du Monde just outside the French Quarter when we think of chicory. But in Belgium, chicory is known as a bitter salad green or blanched delicacy.
What is it used for? In coffee, roasted chicory root enhances the flavor. Adding chicory to coffee began as a way to stretch scarce coffee in times of economic hardship or rationing.
In beer brewing, roasted chicory root is sometimes added to stouts to add a depth of flavor.
Belgian endive and radicchio are bitter salad greens that are part of the chicory family. Not always used in its raw form, chicory can also be blanched, roasted, grilled or braised to reduce the bitter flavors.
Where can I find it in Houston? Upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods and Central Market. It's also occasionally found in places like Kroger or smaller, neighborhood grocery stores.
Recipe: Chicory-Leek Soup: Courtesy of Food and Wine