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Thursday, February 26, 2015




Radicchio is a leaf chicory sometimes known as Italian chicory.  It is a perennial and is grown as a leaf vegetable which usually has white veined red leaves.  Radicchio has a bitter and spicy taste which mellows  when it is grilled or roasted.  It is used in salads, but may also be cooked by grilling, sauteing, or baking.  Radicchio is similar in appearance to red cabbage and may easily be confused with it. 

Red Cabbage(on the left) 
  • is a variety of cabbage with reddish  purple leaves
  • its flavor and texture are similar to green cabbage, firm and waxy
  • it is usually less than $1 per pound.
  • is a leafy member of the chicory family with a bright wine red color
  • it has a bold and bitter flavor
  • its leaves are thin and tender
  • its price runs from $3 to $6 per pound


Modern cultivation of radicchio began in the 15th century in the Veneto and Trentino regions of Italy, but the deep red radicchio of today was engineered in 1860.  Pliny the Elder claimed radicchio was useful as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs.  


The varieties of radicchio are named after the region in Italy where they were developed.  In the U.S. we have Radicchio di Chioggia which is maroon, round, and about the size of a grapefruit.  Radicchio Rosso di Treviso resembles a large red Belgian Endive, and Radicchio di Castelfranco,which is white, both resemble a flower and are only available in the winter months.


In Italian cuisine radicchio is usually eaten grilled in olive oil or mixed into dishes such as risotto.  As with all chicories if grown correctly its roots can be mixed with coffee.  It can also be served with pasta, in strudel, as a poultry stuffing, or as a part of a tapinade.  In the U.S. it is used raw in salads  but also may be grilled, sauteed, or baked


Radicchio wine red leaves hold several unique compounds like lactucopicrin (intybin), zea-xanthin, vitamin K, and several other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

Health Benefits:

Radicchio is low in calories.  The lactuopicrin is a potent anti-malarial agent and has sedative and analgesic (painkilling) effects.  Its leaves are an excellent source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants.  Its flavonoid carotenoid (yellow pigments) concentrates mainly in the central part of the retina and together with lutein helps protect eyes from age related macular disease by filtering harmnful ultra violet rays.  
 Fresh leaves hold moderate amounts of essential B complex groups of vitamins required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.  Its excellent source of vitamin K has a potential role in bone health.  The excellent levels of vitamin K help limit neuronal damage in the brain.  It thus has an established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease
It is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, zinc, and potassium.  Potassium being an important intracellular electrolyte which helps counter the hypertensive effects of sodium.


Radicchio is available year round in California, New Jersey and Mexico.  Italian radicchio is harvested from November through mid-February.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose fresh compact bright wine red colored heads with prominent mid-ribs.  Avoid cracks, spots, or bruising on the ribs.
Store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  Pull off and wash leaves as needed.

So........ Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good.....

Radicchio and Orange Salad with Citrus-Champagne Vinaigrette

1 medium head of radicchio
1 large (or 2 small) oranges.  Navel or Valencia 

1 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs champagne vinegar
The zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a large bowl toss radicchio and orange .
In a small bowl whisk vinaigrette ingredients.  Pour over salad and toss well.  Let rest 20 - 30 minutes before serving to allow vinaigrette to infuse into the radicchio. 


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