27 July 2008

Wild chicory

Wild chicory flowers are really not easy to photograph. When the sun is shining on them, the color is washed out — at least the color that the digital camera sees. The pictures in this post show them in various shades of blue and violet, but in reality they are very blue.

Wild chicory is growing all around the edges of the vineyard, in uncultivated patches between the individual parcels of land planted in grapes, and all up and down the gravel road that runs for a mile out back.

When the flowers (which are sometimes called cornflowers) are not in full sun — for example, early in the morning or late in the afternoon — the flowers close up. All in all, it's really hard to get a true-color photo of a fully open flower.

If you try to take a picture of a 'stand' of chicory flowers from a distance, you don't see much. You have to get up close to them to really appreciate them. The human eye appreciates them more than the camera lens does.

The wild chicory plant is native to Europe and the British Isles, but it has been widely naturalized in North America. Chicory roots can be baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute or additive.

Even though the term cornflower is sometimes applied to wild chicory, there's another flower called a cornflower or batchelor's button that's an annual. I thought at first that that's what we had growing in the vineyard, but it turns out to be wild chicory.

I'm thinking of trying to gather some seeds from these flowers this summer and then planting them out back next spring, just outside our fence, where I have cleared out a blackberry bramble. Or maybe I can just dig some up, since chicory is a perennial. The flowers would make a bright blue patch that would be nice to look at.


  1. Great pictures, as always! If you manage to grow wild chicory in your garden, here's a nice vegetarian recipe to use it! Bon appétit! In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the Thai stew you are cooking for today's lunch. Martine

  2. One by one, they're beautiful flowers. There is "une bebitte" on the first photo! I tried chicorée once, to help my addiction to coffee. Didn't work. I had to put too much sugar to hide the bitterness.

  3. La bebitte is the most frequently recorded species of hoverfly (flowerfly, syrphe), the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus (in French la syrphe ceinturé - the belted hoverfly). We currently have high numbers of them in our garden in London too - they love this hot weather. Excellent photo Ken.
    I think seed will be your best bet for the Chicory - they have such long tap roots they won't take kindly to being transplanted.

  4. Thanks, Martine, for the recipe.

    Claudia, I didn't know that the hoverfly had come into my picture until I looked at it on the computer. A lot of photography is luck, and patience.

    Thanks, Susan, too, for the advice about planting chicory. The ground is hard enough out in the vineyard that digging up a long taproot would be a chore. And I'm not sure the viticulteurs really want people digging out there. I'll start to gather a few seeds. Nobody will mind.

  5. Just lovely!

  6. Hi ...I've been a fan of your blog since I first came across it .... great photos of the 'cornflower' .... a favorite color from my childhood Crayolas ... Thanks for a very interesting blog ... Cheers!


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?