The Kitchen Garden: Chicories

By / Photography By Randazzo Blau | November 29, 2017
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radicchio from Jennifer Solow's garden


<p>Radicchio was the first fancy thing in a grocery store I couldn’t afford. Perhaps that’s why I adore growing it so much. With its stylish fist-sized architecture, batik-like patterning and dense crunch, radicchio screams “$8.99 a pound” to me.</p>

<p><em><strong>In the garden</strong></em></p>

<p>Presenting more like an untamed Afro bursting forth from dirt, the compact, Whole Foods-esque heads we’re familiar with need to be revealed through an aggressive plucking away of the outer leaves. Some types of radicchio form tighter heads than others. And once ready, it’s best you jump in and yank them out. Wait too long and they puff up into bitter towers of regret.</p>

<p><em><strong>In the kitchen</strong></em></p>

<p>Am I the only one who likes to schmear radicchio with olive oil and toss it on the grill? A sprinkle of Maldon salt on top? Radicchio is often the canvas for my fanciest bottles of balsamic, the kind that <em>oozes</em> instead of pours. Radicchio is what gorgonzola was made for. And splurge-worthy walnut oil.</p>

<p><em><strong>Favorite varieties</strong></em></p>

<p><strong>Perseo</strong>—<em>forms nice tight little heads</em><br />
<strong>Bel Fiore</strong>—<em>a speckled, looser-forming head</em><br />
<strong>Pan di Zucchero</strong>—<em>romaine-like pale-green towers</em></p>


<h3><strong>Belgian Endive</strong></h3>

<p>Belgian endive begins its life as a variety called witloof chicory. You plant it. It grows all summer. If you remember that the ugly row of green weeds is something you actually <em>meant</em> to plant, you dig it out in September. You cut the tops off. You cut the tail off. You plant the naked, well-groomed root in buckets. You water it. You put it in a dark closet in the basement. And poof: 26 days later, you have Belgian endive. If you’re crazy like me, you grow it every year*.</p>

<p><em><strong>In the garden</strong></em></p>

<p><em><strong>*</strong>See above.</em></p>

<p><em><strong>In the kitchen</strong></em></p>

<p>Slice the more widely familiar blanched regrowth (called a “chicon”) into coins. Slice radishes and red onions into roughly the same shape. Whip up the reliable ol’ mustard/mayo combination. Stir this whole mess together. Eat for lunch all winter long.</p>

Frisée and escarole from Jennifer Solow's garden

Frisée & Escarole

A frisée salad with lardons and poached egg is just about my favorite meal on the planet. It is with an utter devotion to this dish that I grow frisée, arguably one of the most pain-in-the-ass vegetables in the garden. Just the thought of the tender, nubile bits at the heart of this rugged mess makes me smile. Escarole presents nearly the same giddy challenges and rewards.

In the garden

These chaotic heads take up 20 times the space they need. No matter how thin you thin them, they crowd each other out. And no matter what you do, black rot tinges every frizzled leaf. The real gardening happens at the kitchen sink. Get out your sharpest shears and Edward Scissorhands these to a fare-thee-well.

In the kitchen

Both of these chicories can handle some warmth, some acid, croutons and pig fat. Despite what my husband says, the next-day leftovers are even better. Not unheard of for breakfast.

Favorite varieties

Rhodosthe only frisée I grow

Natachablanched and heavy

Cornetto Bordeauxthe fall version


Puntarelle & Miscellaneous

As the only one in my family who loves bitter vegetables, I mainly just pine away for the more hardcore varietals. offers seeds for chicories that no one I know will eat and that I have not had much success with myself. If you get a patch of these going, send me an email and we’ll do lunch--

Favorite varieties

Galantina Puntarelle Sel Larosa Tardstem chicory from southern Italy

Asparagus Chicoryalso from southern Italy

Chicory Catalogna Brindisinalooks like a fennel bulb


Our favorite suppliers

Seeds of Italy 
Johnny’s Seeds | @johnnys_seeds
Hudson Valley Seed Co. |  @hudsonvalleyseed
Baker Creek Heirlooms | @bakercreekseeds

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