Sometimes called Rose of Winter because of its form and unusual colour, Radicchio ‘Variegata di Castelfranco’ hails from the Veneto region of Italy. Obtained from a crossing between the Red Radicchio of Treviso and the Endive, its heads are reminiscent of lettuce salad but its characteristics are typical of chicory.
Known as Radicchio de Castelfranco in its native Italy and by the nicknames Edible Flower, Orchid Lettuce and Winter Rose, a nod to the way the attractive rosette-shaped leaves resemble a flower as they naturally unfold.
Radicchio ‘Variegata di Castelfranco’ has a beautiful form with wide, slightly wavy leaves with small ribs and jagged edges. The apple-green leaves are flecked with purple to red-violet variegations. It has a fresh and a delicate taste that is sweet to pleasantly bitter and a crisp texture that makes this chicory so special.
Chicory are incredibly hardy, totally invaluable plants for the winter vegetable patch and this traditional variety is one of the hardiest and easiest to grow from seed at any time in the year. Ideal for salads it can be sown all year round and eaten as a cut-and-come-again leaf. Traditionally sown in mid to late summer in May to August and left to heart up, the harvest begins in December and lasts well into winter.
Chicory 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 5.5-6.8. 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 February to April, or sow outdoors in midsummer, May to August.
If planted late it can still be harvested as a loose head. If dug and forced it creates a beautiful creamy-white and pink head similar to radicchio.
Seeds germinate best in soils around 16 to 18°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. It will withstand light frosts.
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 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.
Sow 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: Ready to harvest in 64 days
For baby leaf salads, harvested anytime after the leaves begin to open. Harvest the outer leaves as you want them. The heads are mature when the heads are firm and plump. Cut the whole head off the plant just above the soil line. It will come back every year in most climates if you don't dig it up for blanching.
Like many radicchio varieties, Castelfranco has a bitter flavour but it is much milder with sweet undertones. While all the leaves are edible it is the uniquely coloured central head that is the most desirable. When growing, the colour of this central head can be blanched further by placing a container over the heads and allowing to grow for a few days in the dark or in more advanced farming situations by use of the imbiancamento method.
Imbiancamento: (Forced Whitening)
A method to develop some raddichios such as Castelfranco’s unique colouring known as imbiancamento was first developed in 1860 by Belgian agronomist Francesco Van Den Borre. A complicated process, imbiancamento involves early harvest of Castelfranco then packing the trimmed heads into mesh baskets and storing in a darkened room. The roots are then allowed to soak in circulating spring water kept at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The process takes several days during which time the white leaves take on their signature red-purple variegations.
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. It will deteriorate rapidly with increasing temperature.
Chicory is sensitive to ethylene gas so do not store with vegetables and fruits such as apples and pears.
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.
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).
The varieties of radicchio are 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.
The term Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) identifies a product protected by specific rules in the European Union and, specifically, it refers to the name of a region, a particular place or, in exceptional cases, a country, to describe an agricultural or a food related product. Originating in that region, that specific place or country, and of which a particular quality, reputation or other characteristics can be attributed to that geographical origin and the production and/or processing and/or preparation takes place in the defined geographical area.
Radicchio ‘Variegata di Castelfranco’ hails from the Veneto region of Italy. The town of Castelfranco was founded in 1199 by the town of Treviso and was meant to be a bulwark against the town of Padova. This charming medieval town just 40 minutes northeast of Vicenza is surrounded by medieval walls enclosing the remains of a 12th century castle. In 1477 it became the birthplace of the famous Italian painter Giorgio Barbarelli, better known as Giorgione.
Within the 18th-century cathedral of Castelfranco are not only frescos by Paolo Veronese (whose art can be seen in the church at Monte Berico in Vicenza), but one of Giorgione's finest works, the "Madonna and Child with SS. Francis and Liberale." In the background of this painting the towers of the old town can be seen.
'Variegata di Castelfranco', also known as Radicchio de Castelfranco in its native Italy and by the nicknames Edible Flower, Orchid Lettuce and Winter Rose, a nod to the way the attractive rosette-shaped leaves resemble a flower as they naturally unfold.
In Treviso, a story has been handed down that, many years ago, a beautiful and noble woman of Castelfranco Veneto, attending a premiere at the 'Teatro alla Scala' in Milan. She had embellished her evening gown with a wonderful heart of radicchio of her country, receiving numerous compliments on what everyone thought was an exotic flower.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 1,800 Seeds Seed Form Natural Common Name Chicory / Radicchio, Late variety.
Heritage (Italian 18th C.)
Other Common Names Baby Leaf, Micro Leaf Other Language Names Cicoria, Radiki, Roodlof Family Asteraceae Genus Cichorium Species intybus var. foliosum Cultivar Variegata di Castelfranco Synonym Rose of Winter, Radicchio Castelfranco