Italian Dandelion Redux

Italian Dandelion (Cichorium intybus)
It’s been a difficult winter growing season here in Los Angeles. Our unpredictable Mediterranean climate has thrown a few curve balls in the past few months courtesy of an ocean temperature phenomenon known as La Niña which has caused alternating periods of cool weather followed by 80º days and little rainfall. Our deciduous trees did not loose their leaves until after New Years, most of the winter vegetables we planted seem unhappy and to top it all off someone took all of the shallots and daikon radishes that were growing in our illegal sidewalk garden before they were ready to harvest.

All this leads me to muse about things that are really easy to grow and tough even in the strangest of weather. On this, the occasion of our 400th post, I had intended to discuss my favorite, indestructible vegetable, a leaf chicory popularly called Italian Dandelion (Cichorium intybus). Doing a Google search for it revealed, ironically, that I have already blogged an ode to Cichorium intybus. Let’s just say that despite the erratic weather, the Italian Dandelion soldiers on, providing nightly dinners of strong flavored greens (tasting delicious, incidentally, mixed with turnip greens). Horace, writing (blogging?) in a similar climatic region 2000 years ago writes “Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae” (“As for me, olives, chicory, and mallows provide sustenance”).

It’s a comfort in these uncertain times to observe such a hardy plant. While my cabbage and kale wither under the hot sun and an army of aphids, the Italian Dandelion seems immune to both pest and disease. And, nearby, volunteer mallow hints at a spring of easy foraging. Horace was on to something.

And to all who responded to my call for urban homesteaders: I’m overwhelmed by the response (and the emails!). You are all an incredible inspiration and, like my botanical friend Cichorium intybus, a sign of abundance in the midst of adversity.

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  1. After reading your blog I’ inspired to try some guerrilla gardening this spring. It will be interesting to see what makes it and what doesn’t. There are a few banks around and I’m thinking that if I head out with some zucchini and summer squash that I’ll be able to plant them in their display gardens as if they are part of the plan. Because their landscaping i watered the veggies should do well…

  2. Is this the same chicory that is added to coffee at times? If so do you just need to dry it to use? Yet another reason to “grown your own”. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow! Wife says we do not know about gorilla gardening, but we do monkey around in the garden.
    We found you as one of fifty five who like the book “The Culture Of Make Believe”. We know the author because he lives near town. His prayer for the madness to end seems to be close at hand.
    We very much like the idea of your book. I am five months unemployed and may need to produce more for our farmers market than we are used to. My wife grows flowers and competes in our county fair, which pays money for ribbons. She has won as much as $168.
    We are presently looking for help living on $700 a month. We have a simple but nice house, so if we can get our living expenses down to that, we will be fine.
    Thanks for the inspirations.

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