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RADICCHIO (cichorium intybus)

Requires six hours or more of strong, direct sun per day. Full Sun
Requires six hours or more
of strong, direct sun per day.
Requires two to six hours of direct sun per day. Part Shade
Requires two to six hours
of direct sun per day.


RADICCHIO (cichorium intybus)This vegetable is a popular European salad component and garnish produced largely in Italy. It has a distinctive, bitter flavor, and is eaten raw or lightly grilled or roasted.

Its flavor and color add zest to salads and other dishes. Americans prefer to use the bitter-tasting leaves sparingly.

In Italy, there are at least 15 well-known kinds, from the flat, dark rosettes of Ceriolo to the long, thin leaves of Selvatico da campo to the variegated pink and pale green of Castelfranco.

Radicchio also serves as a colorful garnish. The edible flowers have a faint chicory flavor.

Propagation and cultivation of Radicchio

Cultural practices are similar to those for endive, escarole, and lettuce, but radicchio requires a longer growing period than lettuce and usually requires extra fertilizer and irrigation.

Planting Radicchio seeds

Sow seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, directly in the garden, in early spring or late summer. Radicchio can be grown on a standard 40-inch bed with a 22 to 24 inch bed top. Plant two rows 12 to 14 inches apart in each bed. Down the row, plants should grow every 10 to 15 inches depending on the stand before thinning.

moonGROW Advice
For the best crop of plants Radicchio should be planted when the moon is in the 2nd Quarter (i.e. waxing) and in one of the following Zodiac Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Libra

Gardener's Tip:
Radicchio always grows best in cool weather. High temperatures encourage feeble growth and bolting of the crop. If nighttime temperatures fall below 60 degrees F or 16 degrees C you can grow radicchio during the summer.

Large scale planting of Radicchio

For large scale planting raw seed can be precision seeded with a vacuum-type seeder, but other precision seeders require coated seed. The tops will withstand frost and low temperatures for short periods. Some radicchio has been transplanted using transplanting modules or plugs but usually Radicchio does not transplant well.

Radicchio growing seasons

In warmer climates, the summer heat can cause bolting and tip burning, so late August and early September plantings are recommended.

Home gardeners should experiment to determine the best planting date for each variety.

Some varieties of Radicchio perform best on lighter, better-drained soils.

Growers can seed the crop during the summer (March to August) if they use adapted varieties. But, harvest rates are low, sometimes in the 20 to 40 percent range. Many of the plants will produce either unappealing heads or no heads at all.

    Three ways to force radicchio to form a head:

    (1) Cut the leaves off to within 1 inch of the crown 2 to 3 weeks before the first frost, and then dig the roots and store them in a burlap bag in a cool dark place (45 degrees to 55 degrees F) where they will produce a second growth of pale red heads.

    (2) Leave the plants in the ground and cover them with straw or another mulch.

    (3) Leave the plants in the ground and let the frost kill the outer green leaves. Upon peeling back the dead outer leaves, you will find the red head inside.

Radicchio harvesting and storage

Before harvesting Radicchio it must be formed into a head by using a technique known as forcing. There are two types of radicchio: "forcing" and "non forcing." Non forcing radicchio forms a head under normal growing conditions, whereas a forcing variety will form a head only after freezing weather.

When storing Radicchio the USDA recommendation is 32 degrees to 34 degrees F at 95 to 100 percent relative humidity. This will provide an approximate storage life of 2 to 3 weeks.

Note: Radicchio may be a host for lettuce mosaic. In counties that enforce a lettuce-free period for mosaic control, radicchio is also subject to this crop-free period.

Spring Gardening
Copyright© 2016 Gene DeFazzio
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