The Northwest’s premier chicory festival kicks off in late October, celebrating the best of the bitter vegetable. The Co-op’s produce department has a fantastic selection of varieties, all locally grown from some of our favorite farms such as The Crows Farm, Springtime Farm, Moondance Farm, and Rabbit Fields Farm.
Below is our guide to the under-appreciated bitter flavor of this vegetable group found in our stores and online.
Radicchio is a cool season vegetable that originated and is still widely grown in the Northeast region of Italy, a climate and latitude very similar to the Pacific Northwest. It is a sustainable winter crop; it overwinters in the field and holds well in storage, providing a locally grown alternative to lettuce shipped from warmer regions during the colder months.
Radicchio di Chioggia
Chioggia is a fall and early winter harvest. Chioggia heads are round in shape and large in size with a beautiful red-pink and white variegation. The flavor is slightly sweet and mild in bitterness.
Radicchio di Treviso
Radicchio di Treviso is known for its elongated leaves similar to romaine. Treviso is a milder form of radicchio and is prized in salads and side dishes. It holds up well to grilling and is popular served in steak form.
Radicchio di Lusia
One of the most beautiful radicchios is the Lusia. It is an early variety that has an incredibly delicious, mild flavor, and crisp texture. Lusia has light green leaves with contrasting red coloration and white stems in a tightly wrapped round head. Radicchio di Lusia is an early maturing chicory for summer and fall harvest.
Pan di Zucchero (Sugarloaf)
Pan di Zucchero, sometimes known as Sugarloaf, looks similar to romaine lettuce in shape, with smoother and lighter green leaves. Its taste has the distinct bitterness of chicory and it is enjoyed raw or cooked.
Rosa del Veneto (Rosalba)
The Rosa del Veneto is a beautiful bright, pastel pink radicchio with slightly thicker leaves and a wonderfully light, bitter, and sweet flavor. It is truly a masterpiece in the field, which makes the longer maturity time worth it. Cold temperatures are necessary for it to turn pink.
Castelfranco has a bitter flavor, but is much milder than other radicchios, delivering sweet undertones. The round heads are uniquely colored. Each butter-yellow leaf is dotted with spots and veins varying in color from burgundy-red to pale-violet. Individual heads are rose or flower-shaped, with the leaves folding over each other. While all the leaves of the Castelfranco are edible, it is the uniquely colored central head that is the most desirable.
Escarole is leafier than kale, with short, wide, wavy-edged leaves. It is usually sold in bunches that closely resemble a head of lettuce. The color and texture of the leaves vary—those on the outside are darker-green and a bit tougher, while the interior leaves are pale-yellow and more tender. Escarole has a slight sharpness to its leaves, but is still one of the milder flavored radicchios.