I am not good at remembering plant names. I can remember all 140 head of our goatsí names, their parents, their grandparents, their great grandparents and so on, but I canít remember plant names. I suppose I donít find most plants interesting, but goats I find fascinating. Now, Iíve found one particular plant that I find very interesting. Itís chicory and I ignorantly called it the Blue Bell weed for a long time.
During my history buff days as a very young and blooming historian, I read about chicory being used as a substitute for coffee during the the Civil War. Itís root was ground up and used in place of coffee. Though, I bet it was a bit of a disappointment since it was caffeine free. Anyone looking for a zip to wake them up in the morning wouldnít have found it there. They didnít have a picture of the plant, so I didnít have a clue what it looked like, and pretty much didnít care until goats got involved.
Iíve only heard chicory pronounced as ďchick-er-reeĒ and to remember this plant I had to make up a silly name and go around saying ďchick, chick, chicoryĒ, which Iím sure some people hearing me say this to remember the plant, will think thatís itís real name and then later, if anyone asks them, they will say, ďWhy, thatís the chick, chick, chicory plant. Everyone knows that.Ē And, then years later, through the eon of time, someone will write an article or book on chicory and classify it as the chick chick chicory plant. Thatís the way a lot of things get started.
Anyway, I digress. When Lee found a solid patch of chicory where the goats had been blocked off from, he mentioned he was going to have to get the brush hog out and cut it down. I protested and told him I had been watching the goats eat that blue bell weed for a couple of years now all throughout the farm, and they loved it. I didnít know what it was, but I called it blue bell then. It was stemmy and had the prettiest bluish lilac blooms to it. It could easily get three foot tall if left alone on our place.
Curious, Lee looked it up and found pictures of it. Doggone, if it wasnít an herb! Not a weed or a flower, but a perennial herb. And, it was chicory that people still made coffee from and ate the leaves for salad. It was health wise very beneficiary. And, not only to us, but for livestock. It had been around for three hundred years in Europe and they thought it got mixed in with the hay from the livestock brought over to the good olí USA, but that was a guess. About thirty or so years ago New Zealand got interested in it for feed for livestock.
Why? The animals did super when fed pure chicory or a mixture of chicory with other grasses and legumes. They had better weight gains with chicory than with alfalfa. Unheard of, chicory was studied and found be very nutritious and 5% or less of tannins improved the utilization of protein. Over 5% of tannins and any plant becomes bitter and the protein just passes on through the animal, not helping the animal in any way. Five percent and less greatly increased protein utilization. And, the tannins along with some other mysterious sounding names that I cannot pronounce or spell made chicory a natural dewormer.
People who encouraged chicory in their fields found their animals looking great and not having to worm near as much. And, on top of that, there is probiotics in the plant. So, no wonder the dairy farmers were excited about chicory. Their cows looked great, produced much more milk, and the only drawback was if you feed the cow over 60-70% chicory in itís feed, they thought it left a taste in the milk. Coffee? Also, chicory not only made good grazing, but did well in silage. They didnít think it made much of a hay though. But, Iím sure someone will figure that one out on how to do it.
I know if our goats get near chicory, they really chow down. They love it. Our chicory grows wild all over the farm, but I want to encourage it more. Now, New Zealand produces different types of chicory and the last place I saw the seed it was offered at $45 per five pound. Itís small seed and could be frost seeded in February during the thawing and freezing of the ground, but that seems a bit costly to be throwing seed around. So, most people plant it either in the spring or the fall if they are way down south.
We had a bunch of chicory that I saw last night in an area the goats usually donít get to go and I had decided that the next day they would be let into that field. This morning, it was gone. The deer love it too and people who grow patches of browse for the deer usually include chicory. So, you snooze, you loose. I should have been faster in getting the goats into that field. But, the chicory will be back next year. It seems very tough and does well during droughts because of itís long root.
So, donít forget to add that pretty perennail herb, good olí chick chick chicory, to your goat fields.