Red chicory from Treviso and Variegated chicory from Castelfranco
The three types of chicory from the province of Treviso – the Late Red, the Early Red and the Variegated from Castelfranco – bear testimony to a piece of agricultural, social and economic history that renders them unique and which has brought to life the 'Strada del radicchio', the route of the Red chicory from Treviso and of the Variegated from Castelfranco.
The real consecration of the red chicory however is due to Prof. Giuseppe Benzi who had the idea of creating the first exhibition of the red flower in December 1900. Today, the exhibition entitled Fiori d'Inverno, (Winter Flowers), brings together all the elements of this important heritage in a calendar of events that groups all the shows associated with the red chicory from Trevisoand the variegated fromCastelfranco Veneto.
The Late Red Chicory from Treviso IGP (in English, PGI: Protected Geographical Indication) presents regular, uniform shoots with a good firmness. The consistency is crunchy and the taste is bitterish but pleasantly so. It may be eaten raw in salads with various types of seasoning but above all it is served cooked, in a variety of ways: fried, grilled, stewed or in risottos.
The Early Red Chicory from Treviso PGI differs not only because it appears on the market earlier than the late chicory (from September onwards, as opposed to December for the late variety) but also for the longer tufts with leaves that are broad-bladed and less fleshy, of a vivid pink colour with a white central spine branching out over the blade. The leaves are of a medium crunchiness and have a slightly bitter taste. From a gastronomical aspect, its uses are identical to those of the late variety while the latter is more crunchy and slightly less bitter.
The Variegated Chicory from Castelfranco PGI is a hybrid deriving from the chicory plant from Treviso and the prickly lettuce plant that dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. Its shape is that of a large rose, multicoloured, with leaves with jagged edges of a white-cream colour and variegations distributed uniformly all over that go from pale purple to a bright purplish red. It is harvested from 20th September onwards. The flavour is rather delicate and varies from sweet to pleasantly bitter. In comparison with the red varieties, it does not keep for as long and is rather sensitive to longer cooking times.
The "Radicio Verdòn da Cortèl" (Radicchio verdolin) is a vegetable that unlike its more famous relatives has passed into the background. Over the last few years, however, it has re-appeared on the tables in Treviso, as its organoleptic qualities and distinguishing characteristics have been recognized. It takes its name in dialect from the technique of harvesting which is exclusively with a short-bladed knife, between the end of February and no further than the middle of April.
Photo: Marc De Tollenaere