Radicchio is a quick growing Mediterranean red-colored leafy vegetable. It actually is one of the varieties of leaf-chicory used in salads in Veneto region of Italy for centuries. Its wine-red succulent, bitter flavored leaves hold several unique compounds like lactucopicrin (intybin), zea-xanthin, vitamin-K and several other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Binomially, this beautiful leafy vegetable belongs to the Asteracae or daisy family; in the genus, Cichorium.
Scientific name: Cichorium intybus L.
Radicchio is a perennial, small cabbage like plant. It prefers cool weather, supplanted with well draining, fertile, moisture rich soil. The crop is ready to harvest after about 75-90 days after seedling. Hot weather and inadequate watering might results in small, dense, and bolting heads. Well-grown radicchio features compact wine-red color leaves with prominent white veins about the size of a romaine leaves with prominent white veins about the size of head of romaine lettuce.
Different cultivars of radicchio are grown generally by the name of Veneto provincial cities. Chioggia variety has compact, beet-red, bitter leaves. Treviso variety has been less pungent, long, conical, compactly arranged leaves. Radicchio variegate di Castlefranco is a hybrid between radicchio and endive (Cichorium endiva). Castlefranco has loose, mild flavor leaves. Verona is another non-heading type, and has red color, open leaves with broad white veins as in cabbage.
- Radicchio, like other chicory class of vegetables, is very low in calories. 100 g fresh leaves carry just 23 calories.
- Fresh radicchio is one of the excellent sources of vitamin K. 100 g provides about 255.2 µg or 212% of daily-recommended values. Vitamin K has a potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity.
- Further, it is also good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. Manganese is used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Potassium is an important intracellular electrolyte helps counter the hypertension effects of sodium.
At its natural habitat, radicchio is a cool-season vegetable. Although grown in some parts of USA, a majority of it is imported from the Mediterranean, especially from Italy. Some of the varieties are grown locally and marketed year around in California state.
In the markets select fresh, compact, bright wine-red colored heads with prominent mid-ribs. Closely look for cracks, spots, or mechanical bruising on the leaves. Treviso and Chioggia should have tight, compact leaves, whereas Verona type features open, loose leaves.
At home, store inside the refrigerator set at temperature below 8 °C with relative humidity of around 90% for upto 2-3 weeks.
Source Info: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/radicchio.html
Source Image: http://www.ncim.ca/2015/03/veggie-spotlight-radicchio/