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Pink Radicchio and radicchio variegato from Verona

With these stunning heirloom radicchios, it’s easy not being green

Heather Arndt Anderson  – December 24, 2019 | Updated December 30, 2019

In case you haven’t been stalking the culinary plant breeding Instagrams (which you should!), radicchio is IN, big time, and pink radicchio is everywhere. The culmination of years of horticulture, culinary history, and plenty of time spent drinking with Italian farmers, these pink and fuchsia greens (heh, “greens”) are truly changing the way we see salad. I mean, radicchio has its own zine now. There’s a whole two-city culinary event built around them. If you don’t believe a lowly bitter edible is worth such carrying on, I’ve got four words for you: “legal psychedelic vegetable prom.”

These are no mere roughage for the salad plate; they’re as magnificent as any bowl of peonies. If you want to see your garden through rose-colored glasses, plan on planting in late summer; these greens sweeten up in a cool-season chill and are best harvested in winter and spring, when the danger of bolting has long passed. If you can’t wait that long, look for these varieties in better-stocked produce aisles and farmers’ markets.

Rosalba Radicchio

The It-Girl of the radicchio scene, this ridiculously beautiful baby pink variety has been popping up on menus all over the Northwest for the past year. Unlike many other winter greens, this is a less-bitter radicchio that’s perfectly at home in salads—she’s a natural with crumbly sharp cheese and champagne vinaigrette, but not too prissy to hang out with some ranch (as long as it’s homemade). Find seeds at Osborne Quality Seeds.

Castlefranco Radicchio

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A favorite among heirloom variety plant breeders at Culinary Breeding Network, this radicchio has a slight bitterness that makes it ideal for grilling. Halve the head, brush with olive oil, then sear on a hot grill for a minute, cut side down. Dress with chopped anchovies (or a pinch of flake sea salt), a squeeze of lemon, and another drizzle of olive oil. Seeds are available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Costarosa Radicchio

Scope the carmine babe in the center of the photo. That’s ya girl Costarosa right there, waiting to go into a hot sauté pan with olive oil, lardons of guanciale, garlic, and roasted lemons to toss with cooked spaghetti. She’s also finely shredded, stirred with shredded Asiago and beaten eggs, and baked into a frittata. She’s not only fly as heck, she’s easy like Sunday morning.

Tardivo Radicchio

Look, this Tardivo isn’t a garden-variety pink radicchio—he’s a Treviso, he’s a total smoke show, and there’s no denying it. He’s not interested in being in your citrusy winter salads; no, he belongs on a pizza bianca with ricotta, smoked mozzarella, and prosciutto and you know it. You can find him at fancy farmers’ markets or pick up seeds of his equally charming cousin ‘Incantatore’ from Uprising Seeds.

Chioggia Radicchio

This dainty cream-colored radicchio is speckled with a splash of hot pink streaks, and a subtly bitter flavor that’s a dream in chef Cathy Whims’ take on a Caesar: the Insalata Nostrana served at Nostrana in Portland. Osborne has seeds (plus seeds for the round head-forming ‘Marina’), or grow the similar variety ‘Bel Fiore’ with seeds from Johnny’s Seeds.

Scarrossa Napa Cabbage

Okay, yes, this is in a totally different plant family—it’s a crucifer, not a chicory—but when I look at this gobsmacking Napa cabbage, all I can think is: hot pink disco kimchi. How sexy would that be? Red onion, purple daikon, and purple cayenne would make such a unique addition to your banchan spread. Best of all, the lactic acid created during the fermentation process turns the purple-making anthocyanin the most lascivious shade of magenta. For another purple Napa streaked with green, ‘Red Dragon’ is a stunner—get seeds from Kitazawa.

Want more? Keep an eye out for upcoming Chicory Week events around the Northwest.