There isn’t much to harvest from the garden. A few plants started last Fall survived this year’s extra long cold weather. One of them is the radicchio. The Italian chicory that, if grown properly, is supposed to produce red heads reminiscent of purple cabbages. You see it in salad mixes. Often these mixes are labelled “European” or “Italian.” Except when the Novice Gardener toured Europe, which included a week in Italy, she was never once served a salad that had radicchio in it. Rather, radicchios were served mostly as cooked vegetables.
There are several kinds of radicchio. In Italy, I came across radicchio di Treviso, the type that produces elongated heads, shown below.
There is even a cream-colored version with red and green markings, called radicchio di Castelfranco, shown below. I’m itching to get the seeds of this one.
Then there is Puntarelle, the Roman chicory, shown below. I grew this last year, but was not impressed. I still have plenty of seeds, so I will grow it again. This time in Fall, rather than Spring. Maybe it’ll do better.
All three photos above are courtesy of italianfood.about.com
The one that I just harvested, however, is radicchio di Chioggia, the kind that produces the more familiar rounded cabbage-looking heads . Except that mine failed to produce any heads at all. This has happened to me two years in a row. I’m not sure I will grow these again.
Last year, when the heads failed to show up, I let the plants grow some more, hoping for late-coming heads. Instead they continued growing big green leaves and later flower stalks. The green leaves were tried, first raw in a salad; the second time blanched and dressed in olive oil. Both times they prompted Oscar-winning acting performance from the kids. You know, throat clutching, gagging, and rolling of the eyes, etc. The girl even mentioned “Snow White” and “poison.” The adults weren’t crazy for them either.
So this time, I harvested the leaves before they turn green and bitter with the arrival of warmer weather. They were already turning greenish after the onslaught of 2 days of Summer-like heat last week. Take a look at the photos below, taken just about a week apart.
Then I devised a clever way of disguising the bitterness with a few ingredients I have on hand. Actually, I copied Ina Garten’s recipe of roasted broccoli. The result was not immediately appreciated. As a matter of fact, the Novice Gardener did not receive any compliment. But everybody finished their portion. And then, the next day the husband asked if there was more of the “cheese vegetables.” I think he likes!
6 cups of radicchio leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Zest of a lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400° F. Toss the radicchio leaves in olive oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 8 minutes. That’s it!
Now go to Daphne’s Dandelions and check out what other gardeners are harvesting.