Radichetta is a leafy green vegetable in the chicory family. Like other members of this family, radichetta has a distinctive slightly bitter flavor, which increases with the age of the plant. This plant is very easy to grow, thriving even in cold climates, and large greengrocers and markets may also carry it, especially in areas with a large Italian community, since Italians are big fans of radichetta.
You may also see radichetta referred to as “asparagus chicory,” “catalogna,” or “country lettuce.” The plant has tender long stems which grow in a loose head, producing very ragged leaves. Depending on the cultivar, radichetta may simply be green, but it can also be reddish or yellow in color. Some cultivars also have smaller leaves and thicker stems than others, making the plant look more asparagus-like.
Raw radichetta can be used as a salad green, and it can also be added to sandwiches and used as a garnish. This green can also be cooked, ideally lightly, and served plain or added to soups and other dishes. Cooking will make older radichetta less bitter, especially if it is soaked in salted water first to help draw out the bitterness, while young plants are best eaten raw, because they are usually extremely tender and mild.
Like other dark leafy greens, radichetta has a high calcium content, and it is also high in vitamins A and C. Because it can be grown in cold climates, it can be a good addition to the table in areas where it is difficult to grow other greens. If you get a bitter batch, mix it with less bitter greens to distribute the flavor.
To grow radichetta, obtain seeds from a garden supply store and sprout them. If you live in an area where it frosts, start the radichetta inside in the early spring, and plant the seedlings outside after the chance of frost has passed. In areas where frost is less likely, you can start sprouts right in the ground. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and thin the seedlings periodically to encourage healthy plants to thrive.
You can harvest radichetta leaves as needed, or take whole plants. Radichetta resists bolting, so you should be able to harvest leaves for several months, and if you create a staggered planting schedule, you can keep growing it well into the fall. Be aware that the older a plant is, the woodier and more bitter it becomes.