What is Italian radicchio?

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Radicchio [rah-DEEK-kyoh] is a generic term for several types of chicory more or less bitter. Italian radicchio is very renowned. In Veneto there are 5 types of radicchio with the label igp (indicazione geografica protetta, protected geographical indication, that is ggA in Austria and Germany and pgi in the UK):

Early Red Radicchio form Treviso (radicchio rosso precoce di Treviso): It has a voluminous elongated tuft, tightly closed. It tastes slightly bitter and has a rather crispy texture. The harvest starts from from September 1st and the commercialization runs until late November. It is usually prepared grilled.

Early Red Radicchio form Treviso, Italian radicchio
Early Red Radicchio form Treviso, Italian radicchio

Late Red Radicchio form Treviso (radicchio rosso tardivo di Treviso): The late radicchio is the most valuable, because of the complexity of its production process. It has long and slender deep-purple leaves and a white central coast. The taste is pleasantly bitter and the texture is crispy. The harvest starts November 1st and it stays on the market until spring. You can eat in many ways, raw and cooked, but I love it especially in a risotto. If you’re eager to try it, take a look at my recipe for risotto with radicchio.

Late Red Radicchio form Treviso, Italian radicchio
Late Red Radicchio form Treviso, Italian radicchio

Variegated Radicchio from Castelfranco (radicchio variegato di Castelfranco): Shaped like a big rose, it has a creamy white colour with multiple variegations on the leaves with shades from light purple to dark red. Its bitterness is very delicate. It was created in late 1800 by crossing Treviso Radicchio and endive. The harvest starts from October 1st and it is on the market until March.

Variegated Radicchio from Castelfranco, Italian radicchio
Variegated Radicchio from Castelfranco, Italian radicchio

Red Radicchio form Chioggia (radicchio rosso di Chioggia): Also called the rose of Chioggia, this radicchio has a compact spherical shape. The leaves are purple red with white central veins. It is better to eat it raw. The procedural guideline distinguishes the production of two types of radicchio: early (harvest from April 1st to July 15th) and late (harvest from September 1st to March 31st).

Red Radicchio form Chioggia, Italian radicchio
Red Radicchio form Chioggia, Italian radicchio

Red Radicchio form Verona (radicchio rosso di Verona): Oval shaped, with white well developed veins. You can find this radicchio from October to April, thanks to the cultivation of the two types, early and late. It differs from the others for the crispness of the leaves and the slightly bitter taste. You can eat it raw or cooked.

Red Radicchio form Verona, Italian radicchio
Red Radicchio form Verona, Italian radicchio

Italian radicchio. Did you know that…

  • Although its name is radicchio di Treviso, farmers cultivates it also in the provinces of Padua and Venice.
  • The radicchio di Treviso is also called spadone (greatsword).
  • Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia mentioned the “Venetian lettuce” emphasizing its purifying qualities.
  • It was probably the Belgian agronomist Francis van den Borre to bring in the area the whitening technique (already in use for Belgian chicory), that permitted the creation of the more precious variety of radicchio (between 1860 and 1870).

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