Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

May the Force be with us.

We had some great radicchio harvests last winter, but the most prized and sought after radicchio variety of ‘Rossa Di Treviso’ was a real disappointment. The plants grew fine and looked beautiful but some bolted or were too bitter. They never really achieved that crisp, fresh and vibrant core that makes it the chefs choice of radicchio.

This year I am determined to have a successful harvest of the Treviso varieties. The only successful crops from the neglected allotment area so far this year have been spring onions, radishes, garlic and shallots. There are monster slugs in residence, roaming rabbits and we think an odd deer or two. Radicchio generally is not attractive to slugs and snails and rabbits only nibble the young seedlings, never the whole plant. So I have hatched a plan which I hope is cunning. There is only one supplier of radicchio seeds I would recommend, that’s Franchi. They have three Treviso varieties that cover an early, mid and then a late crop. These will be sown this week in the polytunnel:

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These will be transplanted into the allotment beds about the beginning of August. Maturity takes about 75-90 days which means that these beds will be free again sometime in late October when the onion sets and garlic can then be planted. These Treviso varieties will be dug up, the heads removed, roots trimmed and we will then attempt to force them. By planting these three varieties I should be able to stagger the next stage.

‘Forcing’ chicory plants began in the mid nineteenth century when a Belgium farmer storing the roots, intending to make a cheap coffee substitute uncovered them to find that they had fresh growth. He tasted the leaves and liked them. The word spread of ‘white gold’. By pure chance, he had discovered that the absence of light prevents chlorophyll forming in chicory which causes the bitter taste and also enhances the red and white tones of the leaves.

These roots will then be planted together in groups of ten in each polytunnel container that current holds our indoor ‘Coco Nain Blanc Precoce’ beans. The ideal next stage is to immerse the roots in warm moving Italian spring water, gently ‘waking’ them, but that is probably pushing it, even for me. Therefore, they will be placed into the spent damp compost and covered with a thick black sack to exclude light. Three weeks later, we should have a continuous winter supply of beautiful, virginal crisp leaves for the kitchen. Well that’s the plan anyway.

The battle of chicory root (caffeine free) coffee should be interesting too.

limegarden@sky.com • 18th July 2016


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