Radicchio Facts

Radicchio Facts
Radicchio is leafy vegetables and close relative of chicory. Even though it looks like a cabbage, it belongs to the aster family. Radicchio originates from Mediterranean region, but it can be found in Asia and North America today. It grows in areas with cool climate, on fertile, moist and well-drained soil. Besides in Europe, where this leafy vegetables represents important part of human diet since ancient times, radicchio is popular and frequently cultivated in California, New Jersey and Mexico today.
Interesting Radicchio Facts:
Radicchio usually grows to the size of orange or grapefruit.
Radicchio has shallow root and compact, cabbage-like leafy head made of burgundy-colored leaves with prominent mid-ribs and white veins.
Some varieties of radicchio have compact, but cylindrically-shaped heads, while others have less compact, open heads made of loose leaves.
When leafy head of radicchio reaches maximum size, it starts developing flowering stem. This leads to accumulation of bitter compounds in the leaves, which is why people usually harvest radicchio before the flowering season (unless they are interested in collecting of seeds).
Radicchio produces blue flowers with both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers). They attract insects, which are responsible for the pollination of this plant.
Fruit of radicchio is pod filled with seed.
Radicchio propagates via seeds. Leafy heads are ready for the harvest 75 to 90 days after sowing.
Radicchio is rich source of dietary fibers, vitamins K, C and A, and vitamins of the B group and minerals such as manganese, copper, selenium and iron.
Leaves of radicchio are succulent, crunchy and have more or less bitter and spicy taste (depending on the variety). They can be consumed fresh, in the form of salad, or cooked, grilled and roasted and used for the preparation of stews, risottos and pasta. Leaves of radicchio are also used for serving (as edible cups) and wrapping of food.
Radicchio is very popular and frequently consumed in the southern Europe.
Radicchio is inevitable part of Italian cuisine. Veneto region in the northern Italy is famous for cultivation of radicchio. Three most popular varieties of this leafy vegetables are named after the cities of their origin: Chioggia, Treviso and Castelfranco.
Purifying properties of radicchio were known even during the early Roman empire (according to the philosopher Pliny the Elderly). Ancient Romans also used radicchio in treatment of insomnia.
Besides as diuretic, radicchio can be used as tonic, laxative and to promote health of liver. It reduces blood cholesterol level and regulates blood sugar level. Juice of radicchio can be also used in cosmetic purposes, to soothe irritated skin.
Lactucopicrin, substance extracted from radicchio, has anti-malarial, sedative and pain-killing properties.
Radicchio is perennial (life span: more than 2 years) plant, but it is usually cultivated as annual plant (life span: one year).

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