Saturday, 28 August 2010

Growing Radicchio

Headed variety of radicchio
  • Radicchio is a spring or autumn leaf vegetable with a sharp, slightly bitter taste. 
  • While some gardeners start the seeds indoors for later transplanting, most simply sow the seeds directly into the garden bed. 
  • Radicchio is considered to be a gourmet type of vegetable. 
  • Native to Italy, there are both open leaf and headed varieties, the headed varieties are the most popular. 
  • Leaves are maroon or reddish in color, with white veins.

  • Radicchio is popular in gourmet salads, adding color and taste. 
  • It is also eaten raw with a little olive oil. 
  • It has a crisp, mildly bitter flavour, when it is allowed to mature in cool weather. 
  • But, it takes on a strongly bitter taste, if it matures in the summer. 
  • Radicchio is also grilled and baked.
  • Radicchio is a member of the Daisy Family, and it is recommended that it should not be grown in the same soil as other family members for at least three years.
  • Radicchio likes fertile, well-drained soil in a mostly sunny location. 
  • With a garden fork, work some compost or soil conditioner into the top 12 to 15 cm (5 to 6 inches) of soil. 
  • Form rows in the garden bed approximately 60cm (24") apart. 
  • Radicchio is always grown from seed.
  • Start seedlings growing indoors some  four to six weeks before planting outdoors in the  prepared growing bed. 
    • Sow seeds in a seed tray (flat) and cover the seeds lightly with 3mm (1/8") or less of compost. 
    • Seeds will sprout in 7-14 days.
  • Alternatively, sow radicchio seeds direct into your vegetable garden early in the season, once the frosts have passed or when the heat of the summer has ceased. 
  • The final spacing of the transplanted seedlings should be 20 cm (eight inches) apart in rows 60 cm (two feet) apart.

  • If sowing seed direct, then sprinkle seeds lightly along the rows. 
    • It is fine if seeds overlap as the seedlings will be thinned later on. 
    • Cover the seeds with 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) of fine garden soil and gently water them in. 
    • Keep the bed moist until the seeds germinate.
    • The radicchio seeds should germinate in about a week. 
    • When the seedlings are 0.5 cm (1 inch) tall, thin them so that the plants are spaced 20 to 40 cm (8" to 15") apart. 
    • To remove the unwanted seedlings, simply snip them at the soil line with a pair of scissors. 
  • The photo to the right shows an open leaved radicchio, ready for harvesting.
  • Radicchio requires plenty of water and when the plants get drought-stressed, the leaves turn tough and bitter. 
  • Add a generous layer of mulch around the base of the plants to cool the roots, prevent weeds and maintain adequate moisture.
  • If the plants send up a flower stalk instead of forming a head, cut off the stalk near the ground to encourage the formation of a new head. 
  • Don’t be surprised when radicchio sprouts up green; this is typical and leaves will redden as they mature. 
  • The plants grew to 12 in. high with large red and green leaves.
  • A light-excluding cover, e.g. an inverted pot, may be used during the latter phases of growth to produce leaves with a more pronounced colour contrast, simultaneously protecting against frost and cold winds. 
  • Radicchio matures in about 80 to 90 days. 
  • As soon as the heads are compact, firm and about the size of a cricket ball, simply cut the plant off at the soil line with a sharp knife. 
  • Traditionally in the UK, the first cutting of all chicory heads was simply thrown away, and the tender, forced, second head was for the table. 
  • However, improved varieties of radicchio, e.g. Rosso di Verona, and generally milder winters allow the West European cultivator to harvest two or more crops from a single planting. 
  • If the head is cut off complete, just above the root, a small, new head will grow, especially if minimal frost protection is given. This process can be repeated a number of times.
  • For freshly picked heads simply brush any dirt off the exterior and put in a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator.  
  • It will keep approximately a week.  
  • When you are ready to use the leaves simply pull the leaves off the head and rinse in cool water.  

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