Chicory Rossa di Verona A lovely heirloom radicchio, Rossa di Verona has deep red, heart shaped leaves wrapped tightly around one another to form a solid, round head. Later and hardier than Treviso, it has a sharp flavour that mellows when grilled or treated with a hot oil dressing. Sow Rossa di Verona chicory seeds in May/June and transplant in July for fall harvest. Cut off all the leaves above the crown in early fall. It’s the resulting new growth in cold weather that produces the characteristic small, compact, cabbage-like head. They can even be overwintered for spring harvest.
Chicory Rossa di Verona Even Pull off the outermost wrapper leaves, and then cut the head into quarters down the core. Drizzle each of these with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Pop them on the barbecue, right over a medium flame. In only a couple of minutes they will soften and begin to scorch. Allow this to happen on all sides, and then serve them hot with some balsamic vinegar. The cooking brings out an incredibly sweet flavour and knocks back all that bitterness of the raw product. Summertime doesn’t work without grilled radicchio!
All grow best in cool weather and are normally grown in spring (from transplants) or fall (direct seed or transplants). Like lettuce, color deepens as it becomes cooler. The beautiful brilliant red/white radicchio like Treviso, Palla Rossa, or Rossa di Verona are often ‘forced’. Forcing means in the fall you dig up the plant, cut off the head, cut the root back to 10-12 inches and replant it in a pot, usually filled with peat moss. Cover it with a pail, black plastic, etc. to keep out light and let it regrow at 50-60 degrees (a basement works well). In two weeks or so, you will have new growth which is bitter/sweet and has that beautiful contrasting color of white stems and red leaves. Of course, you do not have to force your chicory. Just grow it and enjoy it. Or you can have your cake and eat it too; dig it up, cut off the head and eat it, then bring it inside and force it.