Il radicchio rosso

Winter flower

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Il radicchio rosso — Veneto Secrets

The legendary “edible flower” is one of the most characteristic and original products of Veneto. It raises from the cold winter, in the sweet countryside irrorated by lots of small water canals, typical of this land, as if by magic. With an amazing bittersweet taste, from 1996 it is protected by the Association with the same name that today safeguard the Radicchio Rosso di Treviso IGP in its varieties “precoce” (early) and “tardivo” (late) and Radicchio Variegato di Castelfranco IGP.

A real excellence. It can be cultivated only in the countryside of 24 municipalities of Veneto, 17 in the province of Treviso, 5 in the province of Venice and 2 in Padua. The king of radicchio, Radicchio Rosso di Treviso IGP tardivo, can be harvested only from 1st November and in any case, after at least two frosts that allow enhancing its peculiar red color. It is followed by a slow working process that uses the techniques of “forzatura” and “imbiancamento” (whitening), to go then to the phases of cleaning, washing, and packing. A process that requires more than 30 days of work.

The history of this vegetable is pretty unique and still mysterious, as well. Botanically speaking the spontaneous species, called Cichorium Intybus, exists from many years, as it is possible to notice some red chicory in the ‘500 painting by Leandro Da Ponte detto Bassano, entitled “Le Nozze di Cana” (trd. Cana Wedding) (1579-82), but the real origin is still hidden behind legends. Like the story that tells that some birds left some chicory seeds on the bell tower of Dosson di Casier, today one of the main areas of cultivation, where the monks began to cultivate. Another thesis tells that the Belgian plant nurse Francesco Van De Borre, arrived in 1870 in Villa Palazzi in Treviso to follow the realization of an English garden, could have taught the whitening technique of the Belgian chicory to the locals.

The history bring us back to the 20th December 1900 when, under the Loggia of Palazzo dei Trecento in Treviso, the first exposition of Radicchio Rosso take place. It was an idea of Giuseppe Benzi, agronomist from Lombardy, teacher at Riccatti High School that become chief of the “Associazione Agraria Trevigiana”. The exposition is a tradition that is still alive during the Christmas days in the Venetian city.

Why you will love it
Cooked or raw, an addictive unique taste!

Where to taste it
At the Osteria La Pasina in Dosson di Casier close to the main areas of production of this vegetable.

The perfect pairing
In a salad with oranges, or baked, paired with a Venetian cheese as Morlacco del Grappa.

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