Giant Chicory, Cichorium intybus.
I don’t remember how I came across the seeds. A common vegetable in Europe and may have taken over some roadsides in north America, apparently here in NZ it’s mostly grown for stock feed – “cows, deer, sheep, pigs, and even pet chooks and rabbits love them” they say.
Being a member of the dandelion family they made themselves comfortable in my garden effortlessly. Being a member of the dandelion family they are raving health stars, comes with all the beneficial bla-blas.
When they were babies we add them to plain green salads for a subtle bitter base, as a variation of cress and rocket. Now they’ve grown big and the bitterness intensified, becoming the “acquired taste” as they describe dandelions.
My old Italian cookbook calls for boiling in salted water then generously dousing with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano (doesn’t that make anything better!). The result is absolutely divine. The bitterness fades into depths of flavours, drawn out by the salt and enhances the creaminess of butter. Best accompanying hearty meat dishes, although I could eat a full bowl by itself.
The farm animals know what’s good.
Although not often consumed by humans here, its roots (again like dandelion) are known to be a popular coffee substitute, especially in the health food world.
And they have beautiful little lavender flowers.