June 16, 2011

Chicory is a vegetable that grows throughout Europe and North America, especially where sugar beets are grown.  New Zealand is leading producer.  The roots are bigger than carrots, about the size of a turnip.  During the Civil War, the Great Depression, and WWII England, chicory root was used as a substitute for coffee.  The flours and leaves have been used since ancient times in human consumption foods (mostly salads), animal forage, and home remedies.

Today the commercial interest of chicory lies in inulin.  Inulin is a food additive or dietary supplement.  It is used in many of the products where pectin, Xanthan gum, and carrageenan are used:  yogurt, ice cream, power bars, milk products, bread. The inulin is sold either in liquid concentrate form or in powder produced in a spray dryer.

Chicory can be processed in the very same manner as sugar beets.  The chicory is sliced into wafers, thinner than cossettes, probably 1/8" thick.  These are fed into a diffuser.  The liquid from the diffuser is filtered and then concentrated.   The inulin is in the dissolved solids, although it is referred to as a dietary fiber.  It is a polysaccharide.  The root contains about 20% inulin by weight, which is 68% of the dry solids by weight.

Inulin is produced in Europe, in the same places that sugar beets grow.  To date it is not produced in the United States.

The spent chicory from the diffuser is made into animal feed, much like sugar beet pulp.  This residue, at 85% moisture, is fed into a screw press at 140° F.  The resulting press cake can be sold moist (as is), or it can be run through a rotary drum dryer for further moisture reduction.

In an alternate extraction process, the fresh root was fed into our screw press.  It had 72% moisture, which was reduced to 62% in the press cake.  

When pressing the spent chicory, relatively few fines go through the 0.015" wedgewire screen of the press.  However two sources have reported a puree coming through the screen of the press.  This occurred when dehydrated chicory, which they had re-hydrated, was pressed.  (Dehydrated chicory is about 98% inulin.)

To date Vincent Corporation's activities with chicory have been limited to laboratory testing and trials.

Issue 234