8 February 2012

Il Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso or : Lorenzo's Radicchio

Radicchio has been around for quite some time: Pliny mentions the marvelous red-lined lettuces of the Veneto region in his Naturalis Historia, noting that in addition to being tasty they're good for insomnia and purifying the blood; he also says it was the Egyptians who bred radicchio from its more wild ancestor, chicory. In the Middle Ages it was especially popular among monks, who welcomed anything that would add zest and flavor to the simple, predominately vegetarian diets proscribed by their orders. Not that the plant was limited to monastic kitchens; it also figured prominently on the tables of nobles, both cooked and raw: In 1537 Pietro Aretino advised a friend who had a garden to plant it, saying he much preferred it to "aroma-free lettuce and endive."
While tasty, this radicchio isn't the radicchio rosso we know today: the modern radicchio with its rich wine-red white-ribbed leaves was developed in the 1860s by Francesco Van Den Borre, a Belgian agronomist who applied the techniques used to whiten Belgian endive to the plants grown around Treviso. The process, which is called imbianchimento, is quite involved: the plants are harvested in late fall, their outer leaves are trimmed and discarded, they're packed into wire mesh baskets, and they're stood for several days in darkened sheds with their roots bathed in steadily circulating spring water that emerges from the ground at a temperature of about 15 C (60F). As they bathe the leaves of the hearts of the radicchio plants take on the pronounced wine-red color that distinguishes them (the deeper the red the more pleasingly bitter the plant). At this point the farmer unties the bunches, strips away the outer leaves and, trims the root (the tender part that's just below ground level is tasty), and sends the radicchio to the market.
I found this text here, it’s very interesting and you can find recipes also.

So, this is a short history of Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso a wonderful vegetable that grows in the region of Venice. Last week we were in Italy and we went to see my friend Lorenzo who’s a farmer producing Organic Radicchio and we had the chance to arrive on Monday, that’s the day they are “cleaning” Radicchio before to send it to be sold.

 We had the feeling to enter into another time, another century maybe: when Radicchio comes to our tables we only see a marvelous edible flower but we don’t know anything about the great work that’s beside it . I took some photos so that everybody can see the hard work and the love & passion of these men .
The Radicchio is harvested

The Harvest

Radicchio is stocked in the basket & into spring water  

Radicchio has grown up in the darkness and now is ready to be cleaned

Cleaning up : a big work!

 We had really good time learning so much about the history of Radicchio, drinking hot red spiced wine, talking with these men so simple and so wise .
Lorenzo doesn’t have a website but if you want to buy his Radicchio I’ll be glad to give you his contacts, just ask me, I know he can deliver in Europe also, in some cases.

Hot spiced wine

The final result : amazing !!!

And as a Radicchio of such quality lasts about  2 weeks in the frigidaire ,we bought 5 Kilos that we took with us in Goult , so ...

 we had it like this

 and with white polenta

Stewed Radicchio with cheese

For 4 servings : 4 plants of radicchio roughly chopped  , 1 scallion , 2 spoons of extra-virgin olive oil ,  pinch of salt , freshly ground white pepper ( malabar ) 1 tablespon of Cognac , 200 gr of  Cheese chopped ( I used Asiago cheese from Italy but you can use also a good Gruyére or a  Comté )

Cut the scallion very fine , put in a pan with the oil and swimmer gently , add the salt , stir frequently ,after about 10 minutes add the cognac , let the alchool evaporate , then put the Radicchio chopped  and cook while stirring , till it's softened and has changed his colour from red to a light brown ( you'll need 3/4 minutes ) then cover the Radicchio with the cheese , put a lid ,turn off the fire and wait till the cheese has melted  . Serve immediatedly with roasted polenta ( just cut cold polenta in slices and put on a grill-pan till roasted , if you don't find the white one yu can use thee yellow )    


  1. Very interesting ! I did not know it was such hard work to make the raddichio a radicchio.
    those cooked in the chimney look delicious !


  2. Yes Pascale , I too was surprised to see how hard it is ! And Lorenzo left his work as ingenier for the love of radicchio :)

  3. Che meraviglia Giuseppina. Ora mi leggo la storia, così rispolvero l'inglese.
    QUi il radicchio lo trovo a prezzi esorbitanti ahimè !

  4. Giuseppina questo post è commovente. Il tuo occhio ha colto dei particolari unici e significativi.
    Grande stima per la tua sensibilità.
    Grazie per condividerla, a me dà un valore aggiunto alla giornata.
    Buon week end.

    1. Grazie Sabrina , quando entrai nella " stalla" sentii veramente un'atmosfera unica e mi chiesi : quanto tempo durerà ancora una cosa del genere ? Verranno delle leggi che impediranno di lavorare cosi e tutto sarà perduto , avremo il radicchio ma non avrà lo stesso sapore ( spero di sbagliarmi....) ho cercato di "fermare" questi momenti .Al tempo stesso mentre fotografavo ero colta da una sorta di "nostalgia" :della terra , delle mie radici ....

  5. Il fatto di avere il radicchio a disposizione tutto l'inverno, quasi da non poterne più, ci fa dimenticare tutto il lavoro che c'è dietro a questo meraviglioso ortaggio!
    Un saluto da Treviso!

    1. Sapessi quanto mi manca invece ( beh....ho fatto scorta comunque e lo sto facendo conoscere ai francesi )Treviso.....meravigliosa piccola città , grazie del saluto , mi scalda il cuore !

  6. Ich hatte keine Ahnung, dass die Ernte Radicchio ist ein so komplexer Vorgang. Vielen Dank für den interessanten Artikel.

  7. Thank you !I thought it was something to share ,I had the feeling that things like that are going to disappear and become more industrial you know . Vielen Dank

  8. Observing the whole process is very interesting, thanks for the post.


I'll be very happy to receive your comments !