The "identity card" of this product identifies its origin in the so-called "Marca Trevigiana," in the province of Treviso, a beautiful territory located between Venice and the Belluno Pre-Alps, bordering Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Here, nature, history, and traditions, including gastronomy, make the region truly special. There are numerous tourist itineraries not to be missed in this land that has much to offer. The Sile Park, a beautiful river that characterizes this land, represents one of the "secrets" of radicchio production, along with the fresh, deep, well-drained soil and specific climatic conditions: cool summers with fairly constant rainfall and dry autumns with relatively low nighttime temperatures. If we were to stop here in listing the elements that contribute to "gifting" us this marvelous vegetable, we wouldn't have Treviso radicchio!
Nature plays an essential role in this process, but the true protagonist is humans; they are the real architects of the procedure that allows this product to have the famous aesthetic and organoleptic characteristics that have made it unique in the world. The origins of radicchio are humble. It used to be the food of the poor, but at a certain point, this spontaneous chicory (Cichorium intybus), a delight for all food enthusiasts, transformed into a highly sought-after and refined vegetable during the winter season. Many historians, gastronomes, and scholars, in general, have tried to reconstruct the fundamental stages of this history, but without much success.
The first certain traces date back to the second half of the 19th century, but history and legend intertwine, leaving the origins of this product and, in particular, its unique cultivation method called "forcing," in deep mystery. Some attribute the introduction of the whitening process to Francesco Van Den Borre, a Belgian specialist in parks and gardens, who likely brought the techniques already used for Belgian chicories to Treviso. Others, instead, attribute the origin of this process to a completely random phenomenon: a local farmer, one winter, brought home many heads of radicchio piled up in a wheelbarrow. Everyone forgot about the load until one day, a family member realized what had happened and, pulling out a head, noticed that the heart of the plant had a beautiful bright red color. Let's be content with the many versions and legends circulating in the area; unfortunately, we will never know the true story of radicchio!
The varieties protected by the quality mark, the IGP obtained in 1996, are three: the early red radicchio of Treviso, the late radicchio of Treviso, and the variegated radicchio of Castelfranco. The European certification involves the approval of a "Production Specification" that describes in detail all the stages of production: the timing and methods of cultivation techniques that must respect the agricultural environment and the health of both the producers and consumers of radicchio. The territory that characterizes the product is defined, guaranteeing the consumer and the producer protection against any possible fraud and promoting the production area.
The three types of radicchio differ not only in appearance but also in organoleptic characteristics. Let's see them together:
Early Radicchio of Treviso
It presents itself as a large elongated head (18-25 cm) that is well-closed and has a modest root. The minimum weight is 150 grams. The leaves have a white central vein from which small intense red branches branch out. The taste is slightly bitter, and the texture is moderately crispy.
Late Radicchio of Treviso
It has serrated, wrapping leaves that close the head at the top. The root has a proportional length to the size of the head and never exceeds 6 centimeters. It has a minimum weight of 100 grams. The leaf blade is a deep red wine color, and the central vein is completely white. It has a slightly bitter but pleasant and crisp taste. There is no need for elaborate recipes to appreciate this special vegetable. Just a little extra virgin olive oil with a delicate flavor, a few drops of good vinegar in which you have dissolved a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper at the last moment will allow you to experience the taste and crispness of the late variety.
The product marketed with the Consortium's seal is classified into two quality categories: "Extra" when the heads, of superior quality, have a minimum caliber of 200 grams. No traces of green coloration are allowed. The use of this category must be expressly requested by the producers and repeatedly verified by the Consortium. "Prima" when the radicchio exceeds the minimum size requirements but does not reach the standards of the superior category. No evident traces of green coloration are allowed.
The caliber is determined by the weight of the heads and is indicated as follows:
CALIBRO A = from 100 to 200 g
CALIBRO AA = from 200 to 300 g
CALIBRO AAA = from 300 to 400 g
Heads weighing less than 100 grams and more than 500 grams are excluded from the IGP designation and follow alternative commercial routes.
The variegated radicchio of Castelfranco, also known as Rosa di Castelfranco
It is also called Castellano. It appears as a large head with a minimum diameter of 15 cm. Starting from the base, there is a layer of flat leaves, followed by a slightly raised second layer, a more inclined third layer, and so on, until reaching the heart. The leaves should be as thick as possible with a jagged edge, and the surface should have a wavy texture with a rounded shape. Its main characteristic is the color: white-cream leaves with variegations, evenly distributed in different shades ranging from light pink to vibrant red and violet. The taste is delicate but with a pleasantly bitter note.
Good news for health
In addition to being beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, radicchio is also good for you. According to the latest scientific research, particularly a study conducted by the University of Pavia, this generous and flavorful vegetable is an exceptional antioxidant. In other words, it helps to stay young by fighting the aging process in the body through its active principles that combat free radicals. Against the risks of a sedentary lifestyle and excessive refined and abundant diet (which generate free radicals), to which we are all potentially exposed, a valuable help can come from all types of Veneto radicchio, including the early and late Treviso varieties, the variegated Castelfranco, the red Verona, the red Choggia, and the Lusia radicchio.
The "red" like aspirin: Radicchio for colds
The IGP Red Radicchio of Treviso is also a remedy for colds and inflammation. The flower that is eaten hides many beneficial properties within its leaves, unknown to most people. In addition to being rich in minerals, particularly potassium, Red Radicchio is a good anti-inflammatory and aids digestion. It acts as an intestinal regulator with diuretic and laxative properties. There is nothing better, therefore, than starting a long series of dishes with a bowl of seasoned radicchio or serving the red leaves as an appetizer, to prepare the palate and stomach for a great feast. And during periods of fever and colds, we discover that "Red" contains a significant amount of vitamin C, which is essential for the development of the immune system. This is the word of the food and wine expert Renato Maggiolo.
Treviso Late Radicchio Risotto
650 g Broth • 320 g Vialone Nano Rice • 50 g Sausage (optional) • Chopped Onion • 1/2 Glass Red Wine • Butter • Grana Cheese • Olive Oil • Chopped Parsley • 180 g Treviso Radicchio
The best radicchio is the long one with narrow leaves, almost entirely white. To be truly good, it should have experienced cold weather because this way the leaf develops less, resulting in a more concentrated flavor. The cultivation of this type of radicchio is unique.
In a saucepan, sauté the radicchio previously cut into strips (crosswise) with oil, onion, and sausage. Stir and let it stew for a few minutes (4/5). Deglaze with wine and let it evaporate. Add the rice, let it toast well, and gradually cook it by adding the broth little by little. Finally, cream it with butter, grana cheese, and a bit of fresh pepper. Serve lightly sprinkled with parsley.