Growing radicchio

by Lila Das Gupta

It's a little bitter, but absolutely delicious, and costs a fortune when you have it in restaurants or buy it from a delicatessen.

Basket of freshly harvested Radicchio 'Rosso di Treviso Tardiva'August can often feel like a tricky time on the allotment. Lots of things like salad potatoes and beetroot have been harvested, leaving large gaps or whole beds free. Then there's the interruption of a summer holiday - should you sow anything new before or after? Unless I've had time to establish crops for a few weeks and they are happy in the ground, I always leave sowing or planting till after my holiday: reliable watering friends who will do more than sprinkle the soil are hard to find!

One section of my long potato bed, is being left for autumn planting broad beans, which I'll sow at the end of October or the start of November (I always use 'Aquadulce Claudia' and 'The Sutton' at this time of year). Another section is marked out for sweet peas - again autumn sown under cover during the same period, but then put out in cold frames to be planted in march.

One last section is being given over to one of my favourite late salad crops, Radicchio di Treviso. Unlike the round, open radicchio which you find in bought bags of mixed salad, the Treviso type -  the name is protected under EU law - is upright with a more fibrous stalk, which is often baked in olive oil and served before a meal with a little balsamic vinegar. It's a little bitter, but absolutely delicious, and costs a fortune when you have it in restaurants or buy it from a delicatessen. (If you want the soft, round type go for the beautiful, mottled yellow and red R. 'Castelfranco'.)

There is no point in planting radicchio earlier in the year because it will be unbearably bitter: it's the cold weather that actually softens the flavour and makes it palatable.

"The outer leaves serve as its winter jacket" says Paolo Arrigio of Seeds of Italy, "they act as a blanching mechanism for Radicchio di Treviso, which comes from the Veneto region. It's a very cold area of Italy, and the colder it is, the sweeter the radicchio is!"

The outer leaves turn colour as the weather gets colder, they redden then eventually turn a sort of brown colour, but you can peel them off to get to the red core in the middle at harvest time. If you want to increase the colour contrast, you can put a clay pot with the hole covered up over the R. 'Treviso' two to three weeks before harvesting.

For succession planting try 'Radicchio di Treviso Svelta', which means 'early'.

'Radicchio di Treviso Rosso' is a mid-season variety and finally, the dramatic looking 'Radicchio di Treviso Tardiva' (pictured above), with elegantly in-curled leaves, is a late variety. This last withstands the frosts well and with some protection could be harvested till February.

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Gardeners' World Web User 06/08/2010 at 15:13

hi everyone, im anxious to grow some winter vegetables in the small patch i have in my garden, i have great onions, lettuce and potatoes, but i"d like to have some fresh veg over the winter,,any ideas what i can sow, when i can sow them etc,,,be very grateful for any replies,,thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2010 at 11:31

Andy, your potato has grown potato seed - you can hybridise new potato varieties from seed (should you wish to). Don't worry, that's normal. I grew radiccio last year and one thing that makes it very valuable is that it goes into the ground after the cabbage white caterpillars have done their worst, along with its bitter flavour, this seems to preserve it from predation. It can be a bit of an acquired taste though!

Gardeners' World Web User 12/08/2010 at 11:59

Andy Smith, they look like tomatoes beceause they are both in the same deadly nightshade family. Which means they are deadly toxic. If you have any kids or pets that might eat them get rid!!! Never had any on mine (usually cut off flowers after a bit to send energy to tubers) and though i can see the fun in breeding your own variety you have no idea what it bread with (may not have been an edibal eg solanum)and the potato industry has billions invested in it so you are unlikely to find the magic super spud before them. As they are also tender and will take a lot of care to get to cropping stage i would save breedig for something less tricky toxic and with stronger genetic material (ie closer to species var.)

Gardeners' World Web User 14/08/2010 at 09:50

my demon chillies are turning black instead of red can you advise please

Gardeners' World Web User 16/08/2010 at 08:31

I had great difficulty reading these interesting blogs because of the unpleasent and intrusive advert form AXA.

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