Castelfranco lettuce, or Radicchio Castelfranco as it is sometimes known, is a variety of chicory loved for its eye-catching bright pink and white petal-like leaves. Originally from the Veneto region in Italy, Castelfranco lettuce has now become popular throughout Europe and North America. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s also full of flavor and nutrition. From choosing your heads of Castelfranco lettuce to how best to enjoy it, here’s everything you need to know about this delightful vegetable.
What is Castelfranco Lettuce, and why are they so Popular?
Castelfranco lettuce is a chicory, meaning it belongs to the same family as endive and radicchio. It’s identifiable by its round shape and bright pink-and-white patterned leaves, which form a rosette at maturity. When picked young, the leaves have a mild flavor that gets more bitter with age. This balance of sweet and bitter makes Castelfranco lettuce a favorite for salads, grilled dishes, and more! Additionally, the vegetable is high in Vitamin C and has anti-inflammatory properties.
History and Origin of the Castelfranco Lettuce:
Castelfranco lettuce is native to the Veneto region of Italy and has been grown for centuries. The variety was first documented in 16th-century literature and was discovered by a priest named Castelfranco in the late 19th century. Since then, its popularity has spread throughout Europe and, more recently, to North America.
Where are Castelfranco Lettuces Grown and Harvested?
Castelfranco lettuce is most commonly grown in the Veneto region of Italy, where it is believed to have originated. However, its popularity has spread throughout Europe and North America, with some growers producing Castelfranco lettuce in California. The vegetable generally needs a mild climate and plenty of water to thrive. Castelfranco lettuce is typically grown in the spring and harvested before it reaches full maturity when the leaves are still young and tender.
Nutritional Content of Castelfranco Lettuce:
Castelfranco lettuce is a rich source of fiber, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. It also contains small amounts of potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and other minerals. Additionally, Castelfranco lettuce has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation.
The Flavor Profile of the Castelfranco Lettuce:
Castelfranco lettuce has a unique flavor that pairs both sweet and bitter notes. The leaves are mild when harvested young but become more bitter as the vegetable matures. This flavor is often complemented by adding other ingredients such as garlic, onions, and spices for additional depth of flavor.
Where to find the best quality Castelfranco Lettuce?
When buying Castelfranco lettuce, look for heads that are compact and have leaves that are bright pink and white. Avoid any heads with wilting or discolored leaves, as this indicates the vegetable is past its prime. The best place to find high-quality Castelfranco lettuce is at a local farmer’s market or specialty grocery store.
How to Store Castelfranco Lettuce?
Castelfranco lettuce should be kept in a cool, dry place and eaten within a few days of purchase. Wrap the vegetable loosely in a damp paper towel or cloth and place it in the refrigerator for longer storage. If you need to store it for over two weeks, you can blanch it and freeze it for future use.
How do you choose good heads of Castelfranco?
When selecting your heads of Castelfranco lettuce, look for heads that are firm and heavy for their size. The leaves should be crisp and tightly packed in a rosette shape without wilting or yellowing. Additionally, you can check for a sweet smell, as this is another sign of a good head of Castelfranco lettuce.
How to pick Castelfranco Lettuce?
When harvesting Castelfranco lettuce, picking the leaves individually is best instead of cutting the entire head. Start by tugging gently on one of the outer leaves near the edge of the rosette until it comes off easily. Then, continue around the head in a circular pattern, picking one leaf until the entire head has been harvested. This method ensures that the plant will continue to produce more leaves and be used longer.
How do you Store and Prepare Castelfranco Lettuce?
Castelfranco lettuce can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days. It’s best kept loosely wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag with some air holes. To prepare your Castelfranco lettuce, rinse it under cold water and pat it dry. Remove any wilted or discolored leaves, then cut off the base of the stalk. The lettuce can now be served raw in salads, grilled, sautéed, or roasted.
What are some Recipes that use Castelfranco Lettuce?
Castelfranco lettuce is a versatile vegetable that pairs well with many dishes. Here are some recipes to get you started:
- Grilled Castelfranco lettuce with Radicchio, Prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano
- Roasted Castelfranco Lettuce with Shallots and Honey Mustard Glaze
- Castelfranco Salad with Endive, Walnuts, Apples, and Feta Cheese
- Castelfranco Wraps with Grilled Veggies and Creamy Avocado Spread
- Castelfranco Pizza with Olives, Artichokes, and Mozzarella
Castelfranco lettuce is a unique, flavorful vegetable that can be incorporated into many recipes. It is rich in fiber and antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. When purchasing or harvesting the lettuce, look for firm heads with bright pink and white leaves.
To store Castelfranco lettuce, keep it in a cool, dry place and eat it within a few days of purchase. For longer storage, wrap it in a damp paper towel or cloth and store it in the refrigerator.
Castelfranco lettuce can be served raw in salads, grilled, sautéed, or roasted. Many different recipes utilize this vegetable so that you can get creative with your meals. Enjoy!