Italian Chicory or Radicchio is a gourmet type of vegetable, with a unique and tangy taste, it adds flavour, colour and a crisp texture to salads; it is eaten raw with a little olive oil or can be grilled and baked. 'Palla Rossa 3' from Chioggia in Italy, is a very reliable radicchio, it is fairly easy to grow in that it consistently forms nice heads, yet can also be forced. It has probably the greatest colour contrast of the red radicchios, with the most intense colour being found in late autumn during cool weather. It is known for its compactness, size and flavour. Palla meaning 'Ball' and Rossa meaning 'Red' in Italian. The uniform well wrapped round heads can be used for either a baby leaf or left to grow to maturity. Radicchio grows well in containers, pots, or raised beds. It can be interspersed between plants in your garden, the red leaves are very showy and it grows well under leaves of other plants in partial shade. Radicchio 'Palla Rossa' has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Radicchio is a type of chicory, and in fact is classified as a chicory in Italy. We tend to separate radicchio, recognising its red colouring and unique flavour as being different from the rest of the chicories. Be sure to check out more of the chicory family under 'Endive and Escarole' and 'Chicory'. The varieties of radicchio are often named after the Italian regions where they originate. In the same way that the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-makers of Parma, Italy have sought to protect the name "parmesan" to signify only cheeses made in their region under the supervision of a regulating body, so too have the radicchio farmers of the Veneto sought to protect the names of some radicchio varieties. Palla Rossa is one of the exceptions, its name Palla meaning 'Ball' and Rossa meaning 'Red' in Italian. Palla Rossa has a bit more loose head than the '3' version Palla Rossa 2 is the earliest of the Palla Rossa Radicchio Palla Rossa 3 is a premium Italian selection and the deepest red in colour.
Radicchio grows well during the cooler spring and summer months in cooler locations. If it matures during the warmest months of summer, the leaves turn bitter. Radicchio grown in the autumn or over the winter retains its sweet flavour. In cold climates, grow radicchio in a cold frame for continual harvest throughout the cold months. As with all chicories, if grown correctly its roots can be used to mix with coffee. It can also be served with pasta, in strudel, as a poultry stuffing, or as part of a tapenade.
Preparation: Radicchio grows well in most soils. Loose, fertile soils that have plenty of nutrients and good drainage are ideal. It grows best in soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. Prepare the bed and rake it for a smooth finish, Mix compost into the soil prior to planting. Add fertiliser when planting
Sowing: Sow indoors from March or sow direct in mid to late summer. Seeds germinate best in soils around 16 to18°C (60 to 65°F) Germination in 7 to 14 days. Keep evenly moist for the tenderest leaves. Leaves that are stressed due to water shortage will turn bitter and taste terrible. Radicchio will withstand light frosts
Sowing Indoors: Sow into open flats or in cell packs 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds in moist growing mix and thin to 1 plant every 5cm (2in) once seedlings have sprouted the first set of true leaves. Transplant radicchio seedlings outdoors when they are 10cm (4in) tall. Make sure the soil is moist and the seedlings do not dry out. Water well until they are firmly established.
Sowing Direct: Sow directly into prepared beds as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Successive seedings ensures a continual harvest. Sow seeds every two weeks through to autumn. Sow 1 to 2 seeds every 10cm (4in). Sow 7mm (¼in) deep in rows 20cm (8in) apart. Once they are established, thin plants to 20cm (8in) in each direction.
Harvesting: 75 to 80 days to maturity. For baby leaf salad, harvest anytime after the leaves begin to open. Harvest the outer leaves as you want them. Radicchio heads are mature when the heads are firm and plump. Cut the whole radicchio head off the plant just above the soil line. Radicchio will come back every year in most climates if you don't dig it up for blanching.
Storage: Clean off dirt and cool by immersing in chilled water. (Amazingly, this process is called “Hydro cooling” in the industry!) It can be stored at 0°C (32°F) for 2 to 3 weeks but will deteriorate rapidly with increasing temperature. Radicchio is sensitive to ethylene gas so do not store radicchio with vegetables and fruits such as apples and pears.
Origin: Chicory describes a group of hardy annual or biennial cultivated plants developed from a common wild plant of Europe, western Asia, and Africa. Wild forms of endive grow in the same area as chicory, but extends farther to the east to India and beyond, including Siberia. The cultivated varieties are root chicory (Cichorium var. sativum) and salad chicory (Cichorium var. foliosum). Chicory was introduced to England, Germany, Holland, and France in the 13th century. The French used it primarily for medicinal purposes to "comfort the weake and feeble stomack and to help gouty limbs and sore eyes". Today, the main growing countries are Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany. The earliest mention of it in North America was in 1803, and ever since, has created confusion in the culinary world.
Nomenclature: The cultivated varieties are root chicory (Cichorium var. sativum) and salad chicory (Cichorium var. foliosum). Root chicory was initially used as animal fodder, but later as the basis for ersatz coffee. Salad chicory can be divided into four groups: Radicchio (popular Italian variety), Sugarloaf (a popular heading variety), Large-leafed chicory, cutting or leaf chicory (Catalogna or asparagus chicory), Belgian endive or witloof chicory (white or blanched varieties that originated in France and Belgium).
As a Coffee Substitute: Root chicory (Cichorium intybus var. sativum) has long been in cultivation in Europe as a coffee substitute. The cultivated chicory plant has a history reaching back to ancient Egyptian time. Medieval monks raised the plants and when coffee was introduced to Europe, the Dutch thought that chicory made a lively addition to the bean drink. In the United Kingdom Camp Coffee, a coffee and chicory essence, has been on sale since 1885, it was especially popular during the Second World War. The roots are baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute and additive, especially in the Mediterranean region (where the plant is native), although its use as a coffee additive is also very popular in India, parts of Southeast Asia, South Africa and southern United States, particularly in New Orleans. It has also been popular as a coffee substitute in poorer economic areas, and has gained wider popularity during economic crises such as the Great Depression in the 1930s. Chicory, with sugar beet and rye was used as an ingredient of the East German Mischkaffee (mixed coffee), introduced during the 'coffee crisis' of 1976-79.
|Packet Size||2.5 grams|
|Average Seed Count||1,875 Seeds|
|Cultivar||Palla Rossa 3|
|Common Name||Chicory / Radicchio|
|Other Common Names||Baby Leaf, Micro Leaf|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Time to Harvest||No|
|Time to Sow||No|