Radicchio is in the Chicory family and has beautiful, red or greenish-red leaves. In stores, you will find small tight heads that look a little bit like a purple cabbage. Radicchio is often added to salads but there are also lots of cooked recipes. The wild form of this plant, Cichorium intybus, grows in some of the warmer provinces – you might have noticed tall stems with lovely blue flowers along the roadsides.
In the last couple of years, I have started Radicchio from seed indoors and transplanted it outside in early June. It produces lots of green leaves and they are very bitter and not palatable. Later in the fall, it is supposed to start making heads. That has not been the case in my yard, but I was inspired to move the plants indoors for winter forcing by Denise, a lovely woman we visited as part of the Edible Garden Tour. Denise also told us how to keep carrots in the garden into winter.
For winter forcing, I dig up the plants in mid-October, gently knock off the soil and transplant them into small pots with some potting mix. I cut off the greens, leaving just a centimeter of stub or so. I do not add any water and place them in my “cold room”, a dark room that does not get heated in our basement. I check the plants once in a while and when they start growing, I add a little bit of water. Usually in December small heads begin to form. Once they are cut off, a smaller crop of leaves can be harvested again.
I am looking forward to trying this again next year with more plants and different varieties. I also read that this works with Dandelion – that should be a fun experiment!