Radicchio, or red chicory, will be recognised by many as that flash of vibrant colour in a shop bought bag of mixed salad leaves. Being rather bitter much radicchio sadly ends up being pushed to the side of the plate yet with the right attention it makes a wonderful autumn/winter veg and is well worth growing.
Radicchio forms part of the James Wong Grow For Flavour Range. James refers to is as “Fancy Italian leaves with a refreshing crunch and a grown up hint of bitterness.”
During May, sow the seed thinly into finely raked, warm, weed-free, moist soil at a depth of 6-12mm. Germination will take place between 8-20 days so then thin the seedlings by degrees to 20cm (8″) between plants.
Radicchio grows best in well cultivated soil and needs to be watered freely during periods of dry weather. Insufficient watering will increase the bitterness of the leaves. From sowing to cropping will take 14-16 weeks.
When your plant has produced a firm reddish/purple head, like a cabbage, it is ready for harvesting. Simply cut the head off at ground level.
Kept in the fridge harvested radicchio will keep fresh for at least a week, probably longer.
The bitterness of radicchio works as a great contrast to sweeter flavours such as balsamic vinegar, pears and mango. Use these ingredients to turn chopped radicchio into a colourful winter salad. For extra depth add some blue cheese and a handful of walnuts or hazelnuts.
Radicchio can be shredded and fried in oil and butter. Season and add a splash of balsamic vinegar then stir into cooked pasta and top with grated parmesan.
Make a basic risotto and add finely sliced radicchio leaves about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Then stir in grated mozzarella and stir until it melts. The result is comfort food at its best.
Other ingredients that work well with radicchio include cranberries, peaches, orange, pears, roasted squash, game and beef.