Radicchio (the Italian cousin of Chicory) is one of those hugely underestimated vegetables that everyone picks up at the market every now and again...
... which is then propped at the back of the fridge and forgotten about it. It then ends up in the bin and the cycle begins once again.
I’m against food waste in all senses, but to deprive this honorable Perennial gift of nature of its capabilities is saddening.
It doesn’t take a well developed palate to appreciate the bitterness of these winter vegetables. In fact, they usually tend to balance dishes, offering a refreshing and distinctive angle.
Italian Radicchio is very well renowned, in fact, some of its varieties hold the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certification, which is part of an European Union scheme that helps to promote and protect names of quality agricultural products.
To receive such status, the entire product must be manufactured within the specific region.
The different varieties of Radicchio that hold the PGI are:
Radicchio di Treviso (Precoce and Tardivo), Radicchio Variegato di Casteldefranco, Radicchio di Chioggia and Radicchio di Verona.
It’s also important to note that not ALL the radicchio produced in Italy holds the certification. And thus, if you happen to be around the areas listed above, a trip to the producing farms is probably a great day out for any foodie.
On this occasion, we decided to talk about six varieties of Radicchio, all included in some delicious recipes which we’ll share with you shortly. But first, what makes Radicchio so interesting?
I personally have a tendency to gravitate towards beautiful and striking vegetables and fruits. Anything that looks mildly weird, I will take. Radicchio so happens to be extremely delicate-looking, very much like flowers, a quality that tends to make any dish, eleven times better.
The six varieties of Radicchio we’ll be looking at are:
Baby Radicchio Grumolo,
Pink Radicchio from Verona,
Radicchio di Chioggia,
Radicchio Trevisano Tardivo
These rosette-like beauties are not only delicate-looking but delicate-tasting too. The Baby Radicchio Grumolo is unlike any other variety. It’s soft but full of character, so unique and incredibly versatile. There’s barely any bitterness in the Baby Grumolo’s thin and fresh leaves which is great because you can serve them in a salad as is. Apart from that, what makes them most special is how beautifully unique they are. You can use the leaves in a recipe and then the whole head to present the dish – very much like we did with the Radicchio Rosa di Verona & Chickpea Salad with Wildflower Honey Vinaigrette.
Pink Radicchio is one of those varieties that is so strikingly beautiful that it instantly uplifts and adorns any dish it’s in. This variety which is exclusively grown in Southern Veneto, Italy; was developed in recent years by crossing Radicchio Castelfranco with Raddicchio Trevisano. The delicately plump texture of the rosy leaves is juxtaposed with the crunchiness of its iridescent white veiny core. Although this variety is not at all bitter like its counterparts (looking at you Raddicchio Trevisano) it still has a very subtle spiciness to it – which works beautifully with a honey vinaigrette or citrusy flavours.
Another delicately exquisite variety. The Radicchio Castelfranco was first cultivated in the 800’s, originating from a cross between escarole and Radicchio Trevisano. The escarole past is what gives it the lettuce-like look and cream-white leaves, while the Radicchio Trevisano gives it its red specks dotted all over it. This variety has very thin leaves which have a very mild and sweet flavour. Nothing too bitter.
The Radicchio di Chioggia is a small cabbage-like radicchio that has its leaves wrapped around each other tightly. The deep purple coloured leaves are best known for retaining its colour even after they’ve been cooked. It’s incredibly bitter which pairs very well with smoky and sweet flavours. Cooking the leaves will tone-down the bitterness. Another great way of using this variety is by pickling it with white wine and white wine vinegar.
The Radicchio Trevisano is the closest-looking relative to the chicory family. This variety is grown in Treviso. As it has a very firm root, it’s great for cooking as it holds its shape very well. Similarly to Radicchio di Chioggia, the Trevisano variety is slightly less bitter than the previous one but still very fresh-tasting, perfect for adding a bit of twang to a summer salad.
The Radicchio Trevisano Tardivo is very similar to the Treviso variety but the leaves are shorter and thinner. The colours are very similar, bright, intense purple-red that contrasts with a bright white root. Unlike it’s Trevisano counterpart, it has a very mild and sweet taste. Perfect baked or grilled with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Perhaps the reason why is so interesting is its shape resembles elongated fingers clutching together.
TIME TO EXPERIMENT
We created some unique recipes that puts every single of these leaves to good use. Which will you try first?
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