Friday, 3 June 2011

Accidentally growing radicchio lettuce

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Somehow last year I grew radicchio. I must have accidentally picked a bag of Radicchio di Treviso (or trevisano) seeds or decided that I'd give radicchio a try while I was at the garden center, and then forgotten about it. Fact is that last spring, as I was starting my garden, I found this bag of radicchio seeds in my gardening basket. I sowed it, and waited to see what would happen.


It grew pretty fast: thick, hairy green oblong leaves, very bitter in taste (or "toxic", as my children say).

It kept growing during the summer, impervious to the neglect my garden suffered while my family and I were on the road (here), and to disease and bugs (even the snails that happily feed on my lettuce did not seem to have a taste for its "toxic" leaves).

Note: there are milder varieties of radicchio, such as the rounder radicchio di Chioggia


Towards the end of August, my radicchio di Treviso started turning red, as the night temperatures began to drop, and thereafter it thrived in the cooler weather: the leaves became thinner and more palatable, and the taste milder.

harvest 3

And it continued to do well during the winter, which was long but not terribly cold, with only two hard frosts and a couple of snowstorms.

finding food 2

After the snow melted, I just removed the spoiled outer leaves, and the healthy heads kept on growing and producing radicchio red lettuce leaves.



So, we had fresh radicchio throughout the winter. Thinly sliced in salads (balsamic vinegar does wonders to mellow out its pungent taste), or sliced length-wise and grilled or roasted.


As the temperatures rose again in April, our radicchio started turning greener and becoming more bitter in flavor, and I pulled it up: during a one-year cycle, it had produced impressively deep, strong roots, considering it was lettuce.

It was great to have fresh radicchio from the garden during the winter, and I'd recommend it to anyone who has enough garden space, especially those who live in less favorable climates.


Oya's Daughter said...

I had the exact same experience with this - the first year it was just bitter and leafy, but during the winter when it turned red, and early in the spring, it was a delightful bit of veg when I was sick to death of root vegetables. It grows well here in the UK, but it seems the red leaves are much nicer than the green ones, which merely fed my compost pile.

Dartford Warbler said...

Interesting. I might give radicchio a try, even to use it only as a winter salad leaf.

*Ulrike* said...

I have never tried it, and here in the south we are having a major heat wave. Maybe I might try it this fall.

Sense of Home Kitchen said...

Those leaves are beautiful. Interesting how hardy the plant is, I have never grown radicchio, but have enjoyed it in salads at restaurants.


Lori said...

Thanks so much for this post - this is my first year growing it, and I'd yet to find any first hand accounts on growing, and the instructions on my seed pack were a bit surprising to me: dig them up in fall, store at 33 F for several weeks, then replant them in sand at 60 F. Sounds like leaving them in the ground should work just as well. My variety is Grumolo Rossa di Verona, from Baker Creek.

Sadge said...

Last year was the first time I tried growing some. I cut the big leafy plants back to an inch high in late, late summer. They then regrew in the cooler fall weather as bright red heads. Those I harvested before a killing freeze and stored in a refrigerator crisper drawer, wrapped in cloth then a green bag. I'm just now eating the last of them - the outer leaves wilted and turned brown, but the head inside was still firm, and delicious!

Chookie said...

I would love to see photos and recipe of the grilling/roasting. The only thing I've tried with it is frying up with some pancetta, and the results weren't brilliant, so I think I'm doing something wrong.

carlaalopez said...

I have been growing this for a few years. I love how it goes and goes and goes. I'm in the SF Bay Area of California, so I don't get the freezing weather. I kept it going for a couple of years by keeping it in shade. When it is exposed to full sun for too long it bolts. I tried saving the seeds, but had no luck with getting them to grow. I now have found some in a nursery and have it going again. It's such a beautiful plant as well as a tasty one.

carlaalopez said...

I grew these a couple of years ago. They went on for two years in a shaded container. When I relocated & put them in a sunny spot, they bolted. It had a pretty blue flower & I did try to save the seeds and replant them, but that didn't work. I found them in a nursery, so have no experience growing them from seed. I now have them again and will keep them in a shady place. If you remove the outer leaves the plant seems to do well. Those outer leaves die anyway.