As plants go, chicory is neither rare nor ephemeral nor difficult to find. It grows in ragged abundance along roadsides, in the scrubby soil along sidewalks, at the edges of the abandoned lot around the corner. It produces beautiful, pale periwinkle flowers over quite a long season, even through intense heat, and yet it could hardly be called ornamental. All parts of the plant are useful for humans, from the tender basal leaves in spring (a substitute for dandelion greens), to the abundant flowers (producing a natural yellow-green dye), down to the roots that have been dug, roasted, and ground for a coffee substitute in tough times (or any given morning if you live in New Orleans, which we did for many years).
Chicory has so many virtues, but no celebrity status in the plant world, simply because it is so abundant. It’s always there. And that’s precisely why we chose it as our touchstone, to serve as a reminder that nature is not a lifestyle brand, not something apart from our lives we have to travel long distances to seek in seclusion. Our ecosystem is the world around us each day, the greenery we pass on our daily walk without knowing what to call it, the strange bug we gently usher out the window, the fairy ring that pops up in the lawn and seems to disappear as mysteriously as it came.
Coming to know these species, as well as those in the meadow behind the park, or the forest trail you visit for hikes, has the power to transfigure a pretty landscape photo into an immersive family gathering, full of familiar faces, great joy, and pitfalls to be avoided. Our world is made up of a vast web of complex and deeply interesting relationships, and the more we know about it the more we can understand what it means to live well within it.
About the humans
Chicory exists through the support of an ever-widening, ever-changing mycelial network made up of naturalists and neighbors, grandparents and gardeners, kids & cute dogs...everyone who pops by the shop for a gift (or with a gift), everyone who comments on a post (silly as that sounds), everyone who levels a look of absolute shock at friend before asking, "You've never been to Chicory Naturalist before?!" You all are the roots, the leaves, the stems...Chicory is just the flower.
Chris Baker - founder
Chris is a writer and professional mushroom lover who dropped her taproot in the Hudson Valley in 2014. She lives in Port Ewen with her spouse, toddler, two cats, and a rotating assortment of pet lichens. She is the President of the Kingston Waterfront Business Association and serves on the Town of Esopus Environmental Board. Chris also authored the forthcoming picture book On a Mushroom Day, which is slated for release by Tundra Books in summer 2024.
Courtney Kappes - events coordinator
Courtney moved to the Hudson Valley three years ago with their wife and three children and is committed to helping Chicory Naturalist grow its programming and, by extension, its community. Courtney is passionate about public health, having previously run a dental health program that provides free dental care to children, worked in a school-based health center, and volunteered late-nights with a needle exchange program for IV drug users. They have a M.A. in Public Administration from Portland State University and in their spare time enjoys crafting, chopping wood, and cultivating mushrooms.
Izzy Lacedonia - shop associate
Izzy, born and raised right down the road in Rosendale, has attempted to leave the Hudson Valley multiple times but always comes to the conclusion: There’s no place like home. She works in midtown Kingston as an art fabricator, producing artist’s bronze sculptures. You can find her at the shop on Sundays where she’s often sipping her coffee, listening to her favorite album of the week, attempting to embroider, and enjoying the company of our amazing community.
Fiona Keating - lead educator, Camp Chicory
Fiona is an ecologist with a passion for connecting people with nature. She is dedicated to creating a fun and engaging outdoor learning experience for children of all ages. With her background in ecology and entomology research, Fiona brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the camp, and is committed to fostering an appreciation for the natural world among young people. In addition to working at Camp Chicory, Fiona enjoys hiking, rollerskating, kayaking and birding.