Beautiful, Edible Radicchio

Last spring we made a big change to the structure of our garden which resulted in a new perennial bed. Since the perennials were still quite small and lacklustre, I made use of the gaps and filled them in with an assortment of seeds including annual flowers, herbs, and greens. All of the plants I put in were in the black/maroon/burgundy colour palette.

In the summer I tucked some Italian radicchio (Cichorium intybus) seeds underneath the tomatillos and pretty much forgot about them until this beautiful, sprawling rosette appeared and threatened to suffocate some of the succulents that make up the bed’s border. The variety in this photo is ‘Rossa di Verona.’ The entire rosette is a massive 20″ wide! Radicchio are pretty, edible, and surprisingly cold tolerant. In fact, dark varieties like this one reach their deepest, best colour in the fall. It makes me wonder why radicchio do not show up in the fall/winter garden alongside ornamental cabbages and chrysanthemums?

As an experiment I intend to cut the heads when these are ready, but leave the root and old leaves to keep growing. Some radicchio varieties have overwintered in my garden before, so it will be interesting to see if this variety comes back.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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4 thoughts on “Beautiful, Edible Radicchio

  1. Last year I had a great fall radicchio harvest from a spring seeded planting, which I had intended to harvest in early-mid summer. It didn’t do much until the fall, so this year I figured a mid-August planting would result in a fall harvest. Sadly the plants are still at a baby lettuce size. Hopefully they’ll overwinter & yield in the spring. Next year I think I’ll try to start them in July.

    I let the fall planting overwinter after harvesting and this spring they did sprout back, but they went from the hairy leaves (which I’m not too keen on in my salad) to bolting within a few days. So, I think next year I may try digging the roots after harvest and forcing them indoors like Belgian endive.

    • Yeah, unlike lettuce they seem to need a little extra time if not a bit of heat to get going when you first plant them.

      I know what you mean about hairy leaves. The overwintered ones seem to do better in shadier spots. I considered bringing this one in and forcing as a tester but it’s so big…

    • Good to know about the heat; I will plant earlier next year, radicchio is a great harvest to end the season on, and it’s not available locally which makes it even more delicious! I’ve actually never brought anything inside for forcing, but would it work better with a bigger plant (more energy stored in the roots?)

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