If you have ever been to New Orleans, you know there is a coffee stand called Café Du Monde that sells the most delicious smooth coffee. One of the secrets to their legendary coffee is the use of roasted chicory root in their brew. It rounds out the bitter flavors and adds a depth not found in regular coffee bean brews. It is caffeine free and good for children as well as adults to drink. You can add it to regular coffee grounds to reduce the total amount of caffeine in your cup of coffee. The amazing thing is that this chicory is a weed that grows everywhere in the United States, usually seen along roadsides and in areas that are not mowed. If you look at the simple but bright blue flower, you will see how easy it is to identify.
Dig up the plant in the fall before the ground has frozen. Look for the telltale blue flower and its plant that can be up to three feet high. It has a deep taproot so be careful when you dig it up not to cut it short. Shake off the excess dirt and cut off the leaves, as you will not use them in this preparation.
Bring them home and drop them into a sink of cold water. If you allow them to soak for about 30 minutes, they will be much easier to clean. Use a vegetable brush and give them a good scrubbing. The roots should be a creamy white color and similar looking to a dandelion root. There is no need to peel them, as the nutrients in the peel are good for you. Rinse and drain.
Place them on a shallow baking sheet and place them into a 350-degree F oven (176 degrees C.) Roast them for about ninety minutes until they are brown and brittle. Close the oven door after turning off the heat and let them continue to dry and cool.
Break the roots roughly into chunks and place them into a spice grinder or coffee bean grinder or even a blender. Grind them until they are smooth and all the chunks are gone. Store these ground chicory roots in an airtight container just like coffee beans but use less in brewing than coffee grounds. Generally, a teaspoon and a half will make a nice 8 oz. cup of coffee.
Use in your regular coffee pot and prepare as you would coffee beans. You can also prepare a cup of chicory coffee by seeping the grounds in a cup of hot water, in the same way as you make a cup of tea. The grounds will sink to the bottom or you can strain it.