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Radicchio from Goriška

Precious produce to please the palate and eye in winter

Dubbed the Garden of Eden, the Vipava Valley has been providing the wider region with premium produce for centuries. The highlight of the vegetable offering is the special local radicchio. For over 150 years, farmers have been using their skills passed down through generations to carefully ripen the radicchio heads in the dead of winter. The brilliant red radicchio heads resemble a rose and add a touch of decadence to the table.

The production of this curious radicchio in the region of Goriška and Vipava Valley goes back to the second half of the 19th century when the knowledge and skills for whitening radicchio were brought to this area. Ever since, farmers have been harvesting and using their own radicchio seeds, creating through strict selection a one-of-a kind vegetable: the radicchio from Goriška, which stands out with its pretty rose-shaped heads. In Italy, this type is referred to as la rosa di Gorizia.

The seed is planted in early summer to develop strong roots by fall. During summer radicchio is quite unremarkable; but come late fall, after the first hoarfrost, preparations for the whitening process are kicked off. The radicchio plant is carefully uprooted, tied in bundles and placed in furrows to be covered with soil and straw. Gradually, the bundles are taken to a warmer place where they will whiten. Within two weeks, lovely heads of tasty and healthy radicchio develop in the dark and warm place. Before the precious vegetables are ready for the market, each head is carefully cleaned and the outer leaves are removed. The plant’s trademark is its distinctive marbled appearance. The roots of the finest specimens are stored and planted in summer to harvest seeds. The pride and joy of every farmer is the seed selection harvested from their own radicchio.

In the past, whitening was spread all over the Vipava Valley, whilst today this winter delicacy is mostly produced in the lower part of the valley. The town of Solkan is the centre of radicchio production, and locals refer to the vegetable as sukenski regut.

In winter, this strange vegetable is the star of the local cuisine. The radicchio from Goriška is not just strikingly beautiful; it is also tasty and very healthy due to the high antioxidant level. The sophisticated wine-red leaves with white ribs lend themselves to salads, whereas local chefs love coming up with unconventional tasty dishes and even radicchio desserts. From December until February selected inns and restaurants feature special menus from this delectable and extravagant vegetable upon availability.

Inns and restaurants offering dishes incorporating the radicchio from Goriška: