Radicchio is a member of the chicory (Cichorium intybus) family. One of the most outstanding features besides high nutritional content is the striking color of the leaves. Radicchio has red leaves with white veins and adds a lot of color to any recipe where it’s used. The variegated leaves also have an unusual flavor which is said to be a nice mix of spice and mildly bitter.
Radicchio is also called red endive, Italian chicory and red chicory. There are a number of varieties. One of the varieties most common in the United States is the Chioggia. Radicchio di Chioggi is the most commonly sold variety in the grocery stores. This variety is shaped like a small round head of lettuce about the size of a grapefruit. You can find white and green radicchio but the colorful red variety is the most popular.
Choosing the Best
When buying radicchio, you want to look for brightly colored leaves that look fresh and crisp. You want to avoid radicchio that has blemishes, signs of wilting or rotting spots. There should be plenty of marbling too.
Radicchio should not be kept in an airtight container because the lack of air combined with the vegetable’s natural moisture will lead to mold and rot. It must always be kept in the refrigerator but should be eaten within 3 days after purchase.
Radicchio can also be prepared for storage by using a vegetable spinner which will make it last closer to a week in the refrigerator.
- Separate the leaves
- Gently wash the leaves
- Spin the leaves in a vegetable spinner to remove excess moisture
- Lay leaves on a damp cloth
- Loosely wrap the leaves in the cloth
- Place the wrap in the refrigerator
Preparing and Cooking
If you have stored the radicchio as recommended, it is ready to use when removed from the refrigerator. If the leaves have not been washed, then dip them in a bowl of cold water and gently shake dry. Then the leaves just need to be shredded or torn into small bite-sized pieces for salads or kept as whole leaves to be placed on sandwiches like any lettuce type leaf. It can be added to a green salad or turned into a radicchio salad. You can also add shredded radicchio to cheese dips or soups.
Radicchio can be cooked in a skillet or wok but much of its color will fade. The leaves can be cut into strips for easier handling. Some people are big fans of grilled radicchio. The thicker leaves make it perfect for grilling or roasting.
Radicchio is high in antioxidants including Vitamins B and C. Antioxidants can help prevent heart disease and cancer by working to promote healthy cell growth. With almost no cholesterol and no fat, it provides plenty of nutrients needed for healthy red blood cells and strong bones.
Just one cup of shredded raw radicchio contains significant amounts of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A – 10.8 I.U.
- Vitamin K – 102 mcg
- Vitamin C – 3.2 mg
- Dietary fiber – 0.4 g
- Folate – 24.0 mcg
- Iron – 0.2mg
- No cholesterol
- No saturated fat
- Calcium – 7.6 mg
- Copper – 0.1 mg
- Manganese – 0.1 mg
- Selenium – 0.4 mcg
- Phosphorous – 16.0 mg
- Potassium – 121 mg
- Magnesium – 5.2 mcg
Radicchio is fun to cook with while it also adds color and nutrition to your diet.