Radicchio

italy
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smradicchio0002.JPGRadicchio has a bitter and spicy taste which mellows when cooked.  Try simply grilling or roasting it with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and salt.

Pliny the Elder thought it was a blood purifier and aid for insomniacs.  In fact it contains intybin, a blood and liver tonic, so he was right. 
Varieties are named after different regions in Italy.  Radicchio Rosso di Treviso (chicory-shaped) is said to be the best.  Radicchio Rosso di Chioggia (cabbage-shaped) is more common, and also good.  Tardivo and Castelfranco varieties are white and flower-shaped.

Its familiar purple-white colour is achieved by up-rooting the plants and finishing their growth indoors.  The plants have their outer leaves removed and are placed in darkened sheds with their roots in water.  The lack of light inhibits the production of chlorophyll and causes the leaves to turn white and wine-red.  Even grown outdoors radicchio can be a beautiful colour combination of purple and white, although the plants may have more purple, less white, and tinges of green on the outer leaves.

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