On red beauty


It actually gets redder with the cold.

Like Cinderella in her finery, the radicchio looks frilly and magnificent in the greenhouse.  Like Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, I rip the frills right off the plants, usually from the outside train in.  A few leaves per salad is a gorgeous addition.

img_9258Hairy beauty:  Started from seed in late August, these plants were transplanted to the greenhouse in mid-October

Radicchio:  it’s a chickory, and as such, it hasn’t been fully tamed by us humans.  It cross pollinates easily with any wild chickories around (those blue-flowered ditch weeds seen commonly in the Midwestern midsummer), and even if its flowers are fully protected, it will often not come “true” just to spite you.  I grow two types of radicchio:  the heading or ball type and the more upstanding romaine type (Treviso).  In the greenhouse, Treviso has a habit of getting freezer burn and then rotting from the top down, but the ball type remains pretty and edible throughout the winter.  I save Treviso for our summer salads.  It’s also great on the grill.

My favorite way to eat radicchio?  Atop a pizza!

img_9255I just love the mix of colors found on just one plant.  It’s nearly white at the base of the leaves.

10 responses to “On red beauty

  1. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife

    That IS really gorgeous, El. I first saw the Trevisano raddicchio in the Treviso area, and I thought it looked like a majenta octopus. At the time my impression what that it had to be forced in the manner of Belgian endive. I was later served it elsewhere in Italy, with a simple dressing of blood orange juice, incomparable extra-virgin olive oil, and sea salt. There were also some chunks of the blood orange on the plate, but that was it. It was fanTAStic. A good memory. Bully for you for growing the stuff.

  2. just stopping by to wish you a late merry christmas and an on time happy new year!

  3. that looks delicious. would love to grow some treviso ourselves. where do you get seed for treviso?

  4. Most of my radicchio succumbed to the cold, as I had it out with the cabbages. The variety I planted last year in the tunnel didn’t do much, but this year’s looked gorgeous up until recently. It’s interesting to see what will grow out of the tunnel and for how long. Of course, my microclimates mess with my experiments, adding yet another variable. It all depends where I have space to plant in my market garden rotation as to where it will be going into winter. We have some dips out there that get quite cold, but most of the cabbages seem to be holding their own. Interestingly enough, my red russian kale is doing better than my lacinato in terms of frost damage.

  5. Oh… I love radicchio too, but I have not been able to get consistent good results with them. I think my timing for seeding is wrong, and I also think that while they like cool they don’t like cold (i.e. not below 25). Not having a polytunnel, I grow them in the open, and if it gets to cold, the leaves freeze and then rot when the weather is milder. And if it’s not cool enough, they don’t head. I was really successful only one year and that’s when we had a long cool fall. I was able to harvest in December.

    I keep trying though…


  6. Yeah the radicchio in my hoop house hasn’t fared so well. But, like all of the transplants it was planted too late. Oh well, there’s always next year — or March.

  7. Oh, too bitter for my scaredy-cat little tongue. Really pretty, though.
    I braved my way through a salad of green chicory recently; not too bad.

  8. I planted Radicchio that didn’t sprout for a whole year! It was a marvelous surprise because due to a high risk pregnancy I was unable to get to the garden this past season, so having these colorful lush beauties come up was a joy! Alas, the two beautiful plants of it recently got covered in snow, my father in law who gave me the seeds said they’re probably rotten now. I was going to leave them up for the seeds, but now that I hear about this cross pollination thing, I wonder if I shouldn’t bother?

  9. Aw, Kate, my mouth is watering. I am not quite sure when my own taste for the chickory family bloomed but I think it had to have had a nudge when I lived in Italy for a while. I can repeat exact courses in my head of meals we shared over there: definitely formative memories for me, a 21 year old freshly-minted college grad. Blood oranges, though! Actually fruit of all kinds, so fresh, so…everywhere. Thanks for sharing; I’m with you across the table in my mind!

    Thanks so much, Jayedee! Here’s hoping 2009 holds many good surprises for you.

    Hi Amy: mine is from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I cannot recommend this company. These seeds are fine, though. Johnny’s and Fedco have Treviso-type varieties.

    Danielle, throw into the mix that radicchio doesn’t reliably come true from seed and yes indeed it’s a bit of a crapshoot. I’m sure you found this to be true too but with lots of these open-pollinated things we are definitely dealing with individuals here and not necessarily cookie-cutter predictability, so it doesn’t surprise me, for example, that you had a red kale or two that did well in the frost. I have one particularly large Tuscan kale that has done splendidly out there while all the red kales have completely wimped out, but then I have one of the red ones in the greenhouse that is gigantic! You know, I didn’t know until your most recent post that you guys put up a second hoop house. You rock.

    Sylvie, I do have better luck with them as greenhouse plants, so you are definitely on to something when you mentioned that magical 25*. Like I mentioned to Danielle, there is a lot of variability in the seeds if they’re open-pollinated, but what you are describing has happened to me with hybrid seeds. For what it is worth I got some really great plants growing under a simple chenille tunnel one year. I just love them enough that they’re always part of the rotation; perhaps the fact that I am growing them year-round hides the failures I have?

    Mark, well, better luck in March then for you! If the roots were established though you might get a repeat.

    CC, I am shocked to learn you are scared of any kind of food. I do know what you mean though; all I can say is the stuff grown in the colder months is lots more mild. And I envied that salad as I recall…

    WMM: I can see that happening (that it took a whole year to sprout). You know what, though? Like I mentioned to Mark, you probably have great roots under those things and they will green up quite well this spring. Trust me: even medical emergencies can’t stop you from being a good gardener! Sometimes neglect is the best thing of all. I will take a pic of some fourth-season radicchio for you when I go outside today. I just let it go to seed every year and I love what shows up with cross-pollination.

  10. My radicchio didn’t do well this year either. Like a few of the others, I don’t have a cold-frame/tunnels so mine rotted in the cold. Sigh. Radicchio on pizza is a new one for me, but hey, I love the veg in anything else, so why on earth not? 🙂

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