CHICORY

CHICORY

The scientific name of the radicchio chicory is Cichorium intybus and it belongs to the Compositae family. Often, radicchio chicories are referred to as chicories, referring to their family. This vegetable is available in a large number of varieties that are distinguished by the colour of the leaf (red, green or variegated) and the shape of the plant (closed head leaves or open like a rosette). There are some varieties suitable for cutting. The best known types are those like the red-leaved Treviso, Verona, Chioggia, and those with variegated leaves as Castelfranco and even those with dark green, rosette-shaped leaves, like "grumolo verde". The radicchio chicory generally tolerates the cold well, which for some varieties helps to close the tuft and form the leaves head. The radicchio chicory is an annual or biennial plant which in the first period of its development produces a rosette of leaves and later forms a stem bearing leaves and flowers. In the course of cultivation, in consequence to water stress or heat, the plant may give rise to the phenomenon of pre-flowering, which induces the plant to seed (produce the flowering stem) early, rather than forming the leaves head.
The best time to transplant the variety is the summer (July-August) to harvest in autumn and winter, there are however also selected varieties to be grown in other periods. Special care is that the forcing culture and bleaching of radicchio chicory, which is to cultivate the plants in the open field then, in early winter, the roots are harvested and placed, one beside the other, in cool place. There, in about ten days, the interior vegetation, forming a heart of tender leaves and crunchy.
The radish has a rather low nutritional value, only 14 kcal/100 g, but it is a good source of vitamin A, calcium, potassium and iron in the diet and combines well with proteins (dairy, fish or meat), or with starchy foods (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes). The bitter substances present in radicchio chicory (inulin, lactone and acid dicaffeiltartarico), seems to promote digestion. In general, the consumption of radicchio chicory improves intestinal activity, detoxifies and purifies.

CULTIVATION

Given the small size of the seed and the difficulty of germination, it is preferred to plant seedlings that are already formed. The distances depend on the variety of plant, but must maintain at least 40 cm between rows and 30 cm on the row, amounting to an average investment of about 8-10 plants per square meter. The cultivation of radicchio chicory takes advantage of a good supply of organic substance to the ground and the ratio of removal of the main elements is (NPK) 1:1:2, which means that the absorption of potassium is double that of nitrogen and phosphorus. Very important, however, is the presence of nitrogen, which guarantees the foliage growth, even if its excess softens the tissues and makes them more vulnerable to disease. A hypothesis of fertilization could be envisaged at the time of preparation of the soil by adding 6-8 kg per square meter of compost with an additional 50 g / sqm of potassium sulphate and an equal amount of superphosphate. Later, on top of the soil, one can add a nitrogen fertilizer with 30 g / sqm of calcium nitrate or 50 g / sqm of guano, split into 3-4 applications. In summer, it is important to follow the cultivation with frequent irrigations, without which the plant begins to show signs of withering. Water stress can cause the plant to flower. One important practice is to clean the weeds which can be done by hoeing or planting on mulched soil (covered with a black plastic sheet). In the latter case, it is good to place below the plastic sheet, along the rows, perforated hoses through which to provide convey water and fertilizer to the plant.

ADVERSITIES

Radicchio chicory plants are generally resistant to disease, but suffer a lot from excess water to their roots as well as to their foliage. Root diseases are caused by fungi such as Rhizoctonia and sclerotinia, which result in root rot and the withering of the entire plant. The primary defense is based mainly on preventive treatment. First, one has to avoid waterlogging (soil placed in prose) and the cultivation of radicchio chicory on the same plot. Foliar diseases are attributable to downy mildew and powdery mildew. To safeguard the chicory from these pathogens, it is sufficient to resort to preventive treatments with copper and sulfur based products.