Radicchio di Treviso igp story: from the fields to our tables

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Have you ever tasted Radicchio di Treviso igp? Last Saturday I was in the beautiful Treviso to learn everything about this precious chicory production chain. It’s a strict procedure. Only igp (pgi) radicchio is the true radicchio di Treviso! If you want to learn more about the different kinds of radicchio Veneto, go to my post What is radicchio?

Torre d’Orlando farm

Our first destination: Torre d’Orlando, a farm in the outskirts of Treviso, where Stefano Dotto and his family produce radicchio. The grandfather is the eldest member of the Radicchio Consortium (Consorzio Radicchio di Treviso e Variegato di Castelfranco Igp).

We focused on the so called radicchio tardivo, late radicchio, because of the season. This kind of radicchio is the king of them all, and my favourite. I hate bitter food, so I can tell. The true igp radicchio tardivo is not bitter! Precious and delectable, it requires months of hard work, unlike a salad (ready in a month or so). Plus is also beautiful, similar to a flower. That’s why its’s also called fiore d’inverno (winter flower).

Agriturismo Il Cascinale
Agriturismo Il Cascinale

Radicchio tardivo igp, a story made of passion and… water

The first thing I learned is that the fundamental things to produce radicchio are two: the expertise and passion of the families who have been growing it by generations and the spring water of the Sile river. Without the spring-fed waters, the radicchio wouldn’t ever acquire its distinguishing features. That’s why no large distribution companies can or will to produce it.

Due to the characteristics of the spring waters and the appropriate soil, radicchio tardivo di Treviso igp can only be produced in limited areas of the Treviso, Venice and Padua provinces.

The field can’t produce radicchio every year, so there’s a 3 years crop rotation (radicchio – barley – wheat), which prevents the crop to be attacked by mold or insects.

Also the seeds deserve a mention. Rare and more precious than gold, only a few farms now produce them. The plants are high up to 3 meters and the flowers are of a beautiful periwinkle blue.

Me and Radicchio di Treviso igp, photo by ScattoperScatto
Me and Radicchio di Treviso igp, photo by ScattoperScatto

How to grow radicchio di Treviso?

Radicchio tardivo production phases:

  • Radicchio tardivo is sown in July.
  • The aspect of the radicchio on the fields look nothing like the final radicchio you eat.
  • Everything is made without machines. An important phase is the hand eradication of weeds.
  • The radicchio bouquets are then hand harvested starting from the beginning of November, or after the first frost of the season.
  • The bouquets are first trimmed (first trimming) and placed in crates.
  • They are then placed in tanks filled with spring running water at 13° C (bleaching). This phase gives the radicchio its crispiness and sweetness.
    Radicchio placed in water tanks
    Radicchio placed in water tanks
  • After about 15 – 20 days new sprouts germinate.
  • Now there’s the second trimming. Yes, because what we eat are just the new sprouts, the heart. The other parts (60 – 70%) are waste (but used as compost). That’s why this radicchio is so precious.
    Radicchio di Treviso igp field at the second trimming
    Radicchio di Treviso igp field at the second trimming
  • The “flowers” are then washed and packaged with the pgi label.

Watch all the phases in my YouTube video:

It’s just a short video made by combining my Instagram stories together.

Radicchio story

According to Stefano’s grandfather story, radicchio was born by chance. At the end of 1800 Italy was a very, very poor country. In the Veneto area people used to eat polenta, butter, milk, eggs and products of the earth. In winter, they had no way to protect the cultivation as we do now with modern technology and materials. So, when people found spontaneous chicories or something, they picked them all up before the frost. To preserve them, they put them in the stables. At some point someone noticed that, in contact with manure, some of the chicories were rot exteriorly, but had developed a core twice as good. This was the first technique. Now almost lost. The spring waters sound better, right?

Now the Consortium promotes and preserves the Radicchio rosso di Treviso igp and the Radicchio variegato di Castelfranco igp (also beautiful, good and even less bitter).

The first producers exhibition (Mostra del Radicchio di Treviso) took place in 1900. The best radicchio producer won a medal. This year it’s the 110th year (it was only interrupted during the world wars). And Stefano told us that the competition is still deeply felt, even if it’s healthy. Healthy also because it is an incentive for them to try to obtain a better radicchio.

Radicchio di Treviso igp based lunch and properties

People in Italy use radicchio di treviso igp from the antipasto to the dessert and also as digestive, as we could discover during the lunch set in the Agriturismo Il Cascinale. The Cascinale is next to the farm and has a restaurant and private rooms where you can stay.

Radicchio is purifying, digestive, low in calories. Its fibers retain the blood sugars, so it is also recommended for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Red radicchio is also rich in antioxidants.

Treviso Covered Farmers Market

We then reached Treviso to visit the new covered farmer’s market (Piazza Angelo Giustinian Recanati, 8 – open on Thursdays, Friday and Saturday 8.30 am – 3 pm). There you can find high quality products: vegetables, fruit, wine, beer, cheeses, meat, bread. The price is not that of the supermarket. But a fair price for the producers, and for you to purchase an healthy, good food of verified and local production chain. There was also a radicchio cake (Donna, I’m thinking of you right now, you can imagine).

Treviso and water

We then walked around Treviso with the nice official tour guide Ileana, who showed us the more quaint corners of her town. A town deeply connected to its waters. Clearly useful not only for radicchio but for other purposes. For example, she explained to us that Treviso was once called the miller of Venice, thanks to its several water mills (we still spotted two of them wandering around town). We conveniently ended the afternoon with a coffee or tea and a tiramisù at the Mecenate Tea Lounge.

Treviso canal
Treviso canal

110° Antica Mostra del Radicchio di Treviso

From December 8 to 10, in piazza Borsa you can visit the Palatreviso where the 110th Ancient Radicchio Exhibition (Antica Mostra del Radicchio di Treviso) will take place. Three days of workshops (also for kids), guided tours, show cookings, tasting of radicchio and radicchio based products plus local cheeses, beers and wine. And the celebration continues in other towns of the Treviso area!

Other radicchio based exhibits or festivals

  • Martellago (Venice) December 1 – 11 Radicchio Tardivo Exhibit
  • Mogliano Veneto (Treviso) December 16 – 17 Radicchio Rosso Exhibit
  • Zero Branco (Treviso) January 12 – 21 Radicchio Tardivo igp Exhibit
  • Mirano (Venice) January 18 Radicchio festival
  • Preganziol (Treviso) January 20-21 Radicchio Rosso di Treviso igp Exhibit
  • Dosson di Casier (Treviso) January 26 – February 4 Radicchio Rosso Festival

Learn more on the official page www.fioridinverno.tv

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