I have begun to purchase seeds for the 2011 growing season, and because I now live in an Italian neighbourhood, I have easy access to Italian edibles. The above photo represents my first, in-store (as opposed to online), impulse seed purchase of the year.
Most of the seeds I bought were varieties of radicchio (Cichorium intybus) aka cicoria, or cultivated chicory. I have grown a few varieties over the years, but was inspired to purchase seed and try out a few more by a recent trip to my local Italian grocer, where I purchased two varieties I had never tried before. The one on top is ‘Rosso di Treviso’ and ‘Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina’ the bottom is (more info on both to follow).
Radicchio is a bitter green and an acquired taste so it is not as popular in the home garden as it could or should be. Not only are the colourful heads a beautiful addition to the garden, but the plants are perennial, although I have found the second season harvest are sometimes more bitter.
Here’s what I bought the other day:
Radicchio ‘Triestina da Taglio’ – This is described as a cut and come again variety. I have sown other radicchio varieties thickly and grown them in a cut and come again fashion, but it was interesting to find a variety that is especially suited to it. The leaves are green and not particularly exciting, but perhaps it will make up for what it lacks aesthetically in flavour.
Chicory ‘Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina’ – Large, dense, segmented heads that remind me of conjoined spears of asparagus, with dark, indented, dandelion-like leaves. Very bitter. Over the weekend I prepared it by thinly chopping the whole thing fresh, with a splash of olive oil and lemon juice on top, a dash of Balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. I also tried roasting it whole in the oven, and ate it plain. It was equally good this way, but in the future I think I will reserve young, newly harvested plants for eating fresh.
Radicchio ‘Rosso di Treviso’ – Apparently, there are two types. The one I bought to eat from my local Italian grocer is ‘Precoce’, but the one I bought as seed is ‘Tardivo.’ The latter is said to be the tastier of the two, but I would prefer to grow the first as it is prettier, and I am sometimes too vain about the edibles I give preference to in the garden. Here’s a great article that says much more than I can about the history of the plant, including links to recipes worth trying.
Radish ‘White Tip’ – I have a hunch that this is just another name for a variety called ‘Sparkler’ that looks like a round ‘French Breakfast.’ This is a great short variety, suitable for container growing.
Cucumber ‘Carosello Barese’ – They are described on the package as a hairy cucumber that is crunchy and fresh on the inside, but I found this site, where the author suggests that it may be a melon, not unlike the Armenian cucumber that is eaten as a cucumber (Cucumis sativa), although botanically a melon (Cucumis melo). This should prove to be an interesting addition to the garden, and I look forward to growing, and eventually tasting it.