Pronounce it: rah-dee-chee-o
An Italian relative of chicory, radicchio is a forced crop and has distinctive red and white leaves. The exact nature of its colouring depends upon how much light it has been exposed to when growing - if none at all, the contrast between the white ribs and the deep red leaves will be very strong. If it has seen some light, the white and red will be softened with patches of green or copper.
Shaped like a small cabbage, it's mainly used in salads, and its bitter flavour contrasts well with milder leaves such as rocket. The leaves themselves are tender but the heads are sturdy enough to be cut and grilled.
All year round, and you can try growing your own from seed.
Choose the best:
Look for crisp leaves with no wilting or browning.
Wash, then break the leaves off the base and leave whole or tear or shred, as desired. If grilling, wash and cut into wedges.
Radicchio will last for around a week In a perforated bag in the fridge.
Quarter and grill (2-3 minutes on each side); use in salads; shred and add to creamy pasta sauces.
Health benefits of Radicchio:
Radicchio, like other chicory class of vegetables, is very low in calories. 100 g fresh leaves carry just 23 calories.
The bitter principle in the radicchio is lactucopicrin (intybin), a sesquiterpene lactone. Lactucopicrin is a potent anti-malarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic (painkiller) effect.
Its leaves are an excellent source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as zea-xanthin, and lutein. 100 grams leaves provide 8832 µg of these pigments. Zea-xanthin is a xanthophyll category of flavonoid carotenoid (yellow pigment) which concentrates mainly in the central part of retina in humans. Together with lutein, it helps protect eyes from age-related macular disease (ARMD) by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
Fresh leaves hold moderate amounts of essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
Fresh radicchio is one of the excellent sources of vitamin K. 100 g provides about 255.2 µg or 212% of daily-recommended values. Vitamin K has a potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Further, adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain. It thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Further, it is also a moderate sources of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. Manganese is used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Potassium is an important intracellular electrolyte helps counter the hypertension effects of sodium.
May you be buying some radicchio soon?
Do you grow your own?
Their colour and taste can add to your recipe choices ...
All the best Jan