Radicchio, also widely known as chicory or Italian chicory, is a perennial leaf vegetable that produces beautiful cabbage-like heads of red leaves with white veins.
Radicchio has a unique and somewhat bitter taste that mellows out when it is cooked. It’s a favorite vegetable used often in Italian cuisine, whether in traditional pasta or risotto dishes, or just as a light and healthy side dish. Boil, grill, or sauté chicory leaves for only a few minutes to tame its bitterness and then enjoy its fresh, crispy flavor. It is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and B, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Italian tradition says that radicchio is a good vegetable for people with insomnia or stomach problems.
Radicchio is simple to grow. Like most leaf vegetables, it’s a cool season crop. It grows well in spring gardens around zone 7 and above, and in fall gardens just about anywhere. It prefers lightly damp soil, and too little water will result in a more bitter leaf. Also, the colder the climate, the more mellow the flavor of the leaf. (Which is why it is a favorite in many fall gardens!)
The rossa di Verona variety is a true Italian heirloom, meaning “red of Verona.” This variety will allow you to harvest two or more crops from the same plant. It was cultivated in the 1950’s after World War 2 for it’s superior growing and harvesting characteristics.