Radicchio (Cichorium intybus)

Radicchio (pronounced rah-DEE-kee-oh) is a leaf chicory (Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae), sometimes known as Italian chicory and is a perennial. It is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white-veined red leaves. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted.

The varieties of radicchio are named after the Italian regions where they originate: the most ubiquitous variety in the United States is radicchio di Chioggia, which is maroon, round, and about the size of a grapefruit. Somewhat less common in the States is the radicchio di Treviso, which resembles a large Belgian endive.

Other varieties include Tardivo, and the white-colored radicchio di Castelfranco, both of which resemble flowers and are only available in the winter months, as well as Gorizia (also known as “cicoria zuccherina”), Trieste (biondissima) and Witloof/Bruxelles (also known as Belgian lettuce). Radicchio farmers of the Veneto have sought to have Protected Geographical Status applied to the names of some radicchio varieties, including Tardivo.

In Italy, where the vegetable is quite popular, it is usually eaten grilled in olive oil, or mixed into dishes such as risotto: in the United States it is gaining in popularity but is more often eaten raw in salads. 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.

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