Although it has been known in our country for only a few decades, radicchio has been winning over southern Europeans since ancient times. For us, the leafy vegetable is just another type of salad. However, the herb can be much more than just a salad, because originally radicchio was a medicinal plant in ancient times and also known as "bluish chicory", because it contains many healthy vital and mineral and bitter substances. While we only prepare it in its raw state (e.g. salad, plate decoration), Italians use it in steamed or grilled form or combine radicchio with risotto, for example.
The origin, properties and history of radicchio
The radicchio comes from southern Europe and is grown today mainly in northern Italy. We know the herb quite classically as a salad. However, this was not always the case. The original form of radicchio was eaten in ancient times. At that time, however, as a medicinal plant. Although the herb was already known in ancient times, it has only been consumed in our country for a few decades.
Radicchio belongs to the genus of chicory and is related to chicory and endive. A distinction is made between summer and winter radicchio. The variety grown in winter can resemble lettuce, as its leaves can be both red and green, and it can look round or cone-shaped. Here in Germany, however, summer radicchio is grown and eaten. This has dark red leaves, a cone-shaped head and white stems.
Like chicory, radicchio tastes somewhat bitter, but also aromatic and strong. In our country, summer radicchio has its main season from June to October. However, it is available all year round, because in the other months it is imported.
The ingredients of radicchio
Radicchio contains especially many vitamins and minerals. In addition, it also contains secondary plant compounds and particularly healthy bitter substances (intybin). Like other types of lettuce, it is very low in calories and rich in water. Thus, for 100 g there are just 16 kcal and 94.68 g of water.
In 100 g radicchio are, among other things:
- 28 mg vitamin C
- 40 mg calcium
- 240 mg potassium
- 11 mg magnesium
- 10 mg sodium
In smaller quantities, B vitamins and iron are also found in the leafy vegetables.
The effect of radicchio on our body
The fact that radicchio is rich in vital substances and minerals makes it a real immune booster. The secondary plants it contains also have a positive effect on our metabolism.
The bitter substance intybin influences our body in several ways. On the one hand, it has a digestive effect and stimulates the production of gastric acid. Bile flow is also improved, which is particularly important for fat digestion. Other positive effects of bitter substances:
- bitter substances stimulate the appetite
- promote the flow of saliva
- lead to increased insulin production
- strengthen the immune system
- have antipyretic effect
- have an antidepressant effect
- can help with exhaustion, fatigue and stress
Radicchio in the kitchen
The best known is probably the use of raw radicchio in salad dishes. It is not usually made into a salad on its own, as it tastes too bitter. However, in combination with other lettuce and vegetables, as well as sweet fruit, it can be used to make a delicious salad. Especially in combination with sweet fruit, such as in orange radicchio salad, it is really tasty, as this balances the bitter note. In Italy, on the other hand, radicchio is also lightly steamed or grilled and is often found in risotto.
Purchase and storage of radicchio
Radicchio has a very long shelf life. In the refrigerator, the leafy vegetable keeps between one and four weeks. As with other salads, when buying radicchio, just make sure that the leaves look crisp and fresh.