Common chicory grows on roadsides, the banks of dikes and near park benches. It grows and flowers even on the driest and crustiest of soils. How this plant came to grow there is revealed in this legend about a promise, the promise made to await the return of a loved one. Listen to this tale from way way back in the times of the Crusades ….
For nearly more than 1000 years Holy Wars had been waged in the Middle East. The first Crusades took place at the end of the 11th Century. In response to the Pope’s call thousands upon thousands of brave and deeply religious Christian men, both rich and poor, set off for the Holy Land to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem from the Moslims. Most of the Crusaders never return home because of the harsh conditions and the fighting. One crusader is a hardy knight from the Low Lands. This noble knight is in love with a beautiful lady named Chicory. He falls for her distinctively clear light blue eyes. The call of the Pope, however, was not to be ignored either, so the nobleman sets off leaving her behind despite her pleas to remain. He promises to return, if she will wait for him. Lady Chicory heeds his promise and awaits his return year after year, constant in her love and patience. The endless waiting is terrible. Every morning she walks out to the sandy path and looks into the distance, hoping to see him return. But every morning she returns home disappointed once again. Day in day out, year in year out she walks out to the path and scans the horizon with her clear blue eyes, hoping to see her beloved return.
In the hot summer in the year of 1099 it is too warm to walk up and down any more. So for days on end Chicory maintains her vigil looking out into the distance from one particular spot. Chicory waits there so long that roots grow down through her feet into the earth and she turns into a slender plant with flowers as large and blue as her eyes.
To this very day we can see her standing there on the sides of country lanes with her clear blue eyes looking out longingly towards the south in the morning hours only. In the afternoon her eyes sadly close, because her loved one has once again failed to return.
Chicory can grow to be a good metre in height and has strikingly light blue flowers on stems which bare little else. The flowers open in the mornings and close in the afternoons. The Latin name for chicory is “Cichorium intybus”. Roughly translated, Chicory means “a place near where people live” or “walking along the field”. Just like the Plantain and the Daisy Chicory also grows near where people live and walk. The root can be used to make a coffee substitute. It was probably the Romans who brought it with them to our part of the world.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl