What to Plant in July

The following is a list of vegetables you can plant in July in Sydney, a temperate zone, (just click on the link for the growing guide for each vegetable)

Plant of the Month – Cichorium intybus (palla rossa)

 

Radicchio flowers-2

 

Radicchio ‘palla rossa’ is an open-pollinated, heirloom radicchio originating from the Chioggia region of Italy. It is a perennial that has been grown as an annual from ancient times in the Mediterranean region.

It is a variety of chicory that forms a bright ruby red and white, tightly packed head with green outer leaves. At maturity this firm large head has crisp, bitter leaves for use in salads with other milder leaves of lettuce, rocket or other greens. When cooked on the grill, in saucepan, or in the oven it has a sweet flavour.

Eaten raw it is a great source of vitamins, dietary fibre and minerals providing phytonutrients and antioxidants. Radicchio is an excellent source of potassium, iron, selenium, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E Vitamin K, folate and Vitamin B.

IMG_20200609_163149-Radicchio at maturity
A mature radicchio with ruby red leaves of its tightly packed head.

Select a location that receives full sun or light shade. Radicchio grows best with a soil that is rich, well drained and moist with a pH that is slightly acidic to neutral, between 5.0 and 7.0.

Around 6-8 weeks before sowing, dig through organic fertiliser, such as well rotted cow manure, compost, worm castings to a depth of 20 cm. Take care, as applying a fertiliser that is too high in nitrogen can cause radicchio plants to bolt to seed and become bitter.

Radicchio heads will form well and will be sweeter if they are planted to mature during the cooler months of the year.  Established plants are frost hardy.  In cool regions sow between January and April. In temperate regions sow Palla Rossa radicchio from Febuary to May.  In subtropical regions sow Palla Rossa radicchio seeds from March to June.

Plant the seeds at 6cm deep in moist soil and cover with a moistened cotton cloth till seeds emerge and then thin out to the strongest plants to 30 cm apart. The seeds germinate in 5 to 7 days but sometimes can take up to 2 weeks to germinate if the soil is cold.

Once the seeds germinate keep radicchio well watered making sure to water the growing plants deeply.

Apply mulch around radicchio plants well to keep their root systems cool, retain moisture and reduce competition from weeds.

IMG_20200409_095904-Young palla rossa radicchio
A young palla rossa radicchio plant with the head forming.

IMG_20200430_142629-Palla Rossa radicchio4

The heads can be harvested three months from sowing. If the heads are removed carefully leaving the plant in the ground and protected from frost, it will regenerate.

IMG_20200609_163154-Palla rossa radicchio 3
Sometimes the heads don’t form well but the leaves are still wonderful.

If the plant is left to go to seed it produces long flowering spikes covered in lovely blue flowers which are very attractive to bees and other pollinators. If you can, leave these spikes as they go on to spread seeds, ensuring an ongoing supply of plants.  This can be part of the sustainable garden. One person I know planted some radicchio 7 years ago and has left it to its own devices appreciating the blue blooms and finding plants growing year after year. Sometimes letting nature take over finding its own way in the unique ecology of your garden is the best way to ensure a wonderful crop of leafy greens!

IMG_20200425_111254-Radicchio flower with bee
Tall radicchio spikes bending over, covered in blue flowers that are so loved by bees.

Radicchio can be eaten raw, grilled or baked. When cooked on the grill or in saucepan it has a sweet flavour.

Its colourful bitter leaves can be be used grilled with olive oil in pasta or risotto dishes, or cooked in soups or omelettes. It can be used in stuffings for poultry. Its cup shaped crisp raw leaves can also be stuffed with tuna, seafood or chicken.

It is can be eaten raw in salads, on its own, or combined with other mixed lettuce leaves, rocket, or other greens dressed with olive oil and best balsamic vinegar.

To prepare radicchio for a salad, gently separate the leaves and tear them into pieces and soak in water for an hour. This is said to dilute some of the bitter compounds that form from tearing the leaves and it will also keep them crisp and crunchy.

Dry the leaves well befor using.  Only dress lightly just before serving to stop the leaves from wilting.

IMG_20200521_115223-Radicchio and Rocket saladIMG_20200521_115256-Radicchio salad

As with all chicories radicchio roots, after roasting and grinding, can be used as a coffee substitute or coffee additive.

 

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