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Radicchio is a vegetable that gives its best in December, in correspondence with the lower temperatures that accentuate its characteristic flavor. The green leaf radicchio is characterized by the high content of chlorophyll and iron: it is a valid aid for those who need to regulate and balance intestinal functions, by virtue of the richness of fiber that characterizes them; not to be underestimated, moreover, is the bitter taste, which translates into an important contribution to a correct digestive activity. As for the red-leafed radicchio, on the other hand, it has a high content of anthocyanins, which are nothing but red pigments that help protect cells and the heart from aging. Radicchio is a plant particularly suitable for individuals suffering from high blood pressure, due to their diuretic action favored by potassium, which contributes to the drainage of cells, or to osteoporosis: thanks to the discreet content of calcium. This vegetable, on the other hand, is also recommended for women who intend to become pregnant, since they are an excellent source of folic acid, while it does not create problems for diabetics, since the sugar present in it, inulin, is absolutely harmless. Chosen in numerous slimming diets for its ability to satiate without getting fat (for an ounce it supplies only thirteen calories), even more so if eaten raw, radicchio is characterized by a full-bodied consistency that fills the stomach with taste.
Let's see, therefore, how to proceed for the cultivation of this type of vegetable. First of all, it must be specified that the most suitable soil is a fresh soil, sufficiently drained and well structured, that it must be worked at least twenty centimeters deep (but not over forty) to then be shredded and then leveled with raking and hoeing. The radicchi, as mentioned, can be grown at any time of the year, even in the winter months, since it is able to withstand temperatures well beyond zero: it is necessary to pay attention only to the early autumn frosts, which occur immediately after sowing. The risk in cultivation, in fact, is that they induce the plant to produce flowers, consequently making the production of leaves vain. If you want to apply a crop rotation, the radicchio happens without problems to cabbages, strawberries, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, spinach and beans. Instead, care must be taken not to sow it for two consecutive years in the same flowerbed, as well as after vegetables belonging to the same family: for example artichokes, and of course salads.
How and where to plant the seeds
The seeds must be buried on the surface, at a depth of half a centimeter: in a vegetable garden at most ten plants per square meter are fine, while in a greenhouse, where growth is reduced, twelve plants can also stay in a square meter. The seedlings should be thinned when they have three or four leaves. Immediately after thinning, it is necessary to fertilize the soil (or after the transplant): this operation must then be repeated forty-five days later, taking care to distribute a product to the nitrogen (as regards the doses, it is called sixty or seventy grams every ten square meters). In the winter months, in northern Italy, spring radicchio (but also chicory) can be sown under tunnels, while in southern Italy, along the coasts and in areas with milder climates, sowing can also take place outdoors. One of the fundamental aspects, which deserve the utmost care, is represented by irrigation: the soil, in fact, must remain constantly humid, until after the transplantation or until the seedlings are formed, but not soaked. Afterwards, the plants must not be subjected to water stress: a sprinkling with little water every three or four days will be more than sufficient.
Bleaching and conservation
In the case in which the cultivation concerns the radicchio, it will be ready after a couple of months, and once cut at the base it will produce a new harvest within forty-five days. In the case of plants, such as the classic red radicchio, intended for bleaching, they should be covered two months after sowing with a black plastic shading tunnel, or alternatively tied with rubber bands on the tufts. Always pay attention to the risk of rotting, even in the event that you choose to uproot the seedlings and store them in the warehouse or in the cellar for two weeks. Bleaching lasts a maximum of twenty days, at the end of which the external leaves must be removed, dirty and old, cutting the main root at five centimeters from the collar. It is good to know, in conclusion, that the radicchio can undergo attack, as well as rots, even of the night ones: they are larvae that gnaw the leaves, the stem and the collar. Attention also to aphids and ferretti, which can however be contrasted with normal organic products.