Radicchio tardivo di Treviso is an extraordinary looking vegetable, rather like a red and white octopus. Once cut, it is a kaleidoscope of red and white leaves which are extraordinarily beautiful.
Grown in the provinces of Treviso and Venice, this plant now has protected name status from the European Union. It differs from other radicchio not only in appearance but also in its mild taste, which is not bitter at all.
The appearance and the taste are achieved through a unique preparation process. Harvested after the first frost in November, the plants are put through a process of whitening. This involves shutting them in dark tanks filled with water between 12–15°C (53–59°F). This encourages new growth, but the absence of light means that the new leaves will stay mostly white, with a tinge of red around the outside.
The whitening process also changes the texture of the leaves, which become crunchy and removes a lot of the bitter flavour associated with radicchio.
After the whitening process, the plants are cleaned, washed, and packed ready to be eaten.
There are many recipes using radicchio tardivo, such as risotto al radicchio, but it can also be eaten, lightly dressed in a salad.