Seed Saving: Beginner
Gaeta Chicory – Puntarelle (Cichorium intybus)
Gaeta Chicory – Puntarelle (Cichorium intybus): Catalonian Chicory, also known in some parts of Italy as “Asparagus Chicory”, it includes several local varieties, some whose buds, similar to white asparagus, are a dish to be eaten raw, the Puntarelle.
These buds look like a head of leaves of a beautiful intense green, and elongated shape, with white stalks and a serrated green area.
Inside the head there are the thalli, little tops like white asparagus. These thalli, which are the buds of the chicory about to sprout, are ready to produce flowers and seeds, from where puntarelle is obtained. They have a slightly bitter taste, they’re tender and crispy and are eaten both, raw and cooked.
The Puntarelle is now widely available in markets and supermarkets throughout Italy in two main versions, Gaeta and Galatina; the former, thinner and more delicate, whereas the latter is more fleshy and intense; both exceptional.
They are appreciated in the kitchen not only for their particular flavour, but also because of their nutritional qualities. In Lazio and Roman cuisine, Puntarelle, specially raw, is part of the most rooted traditions and it's very popular.
How to make Puntarelle:
Already-made puntarelle is often found in the market; but in this section, we will instruct you on how to make it directly from your garden.
From your harvest, separate the external leaves from the internal buds, the leaves you remove can be used in other preparations such as the one indicated in the Jagged Catalonia Chicory. Wash the sprouts thoroughly in running water to remove impurities, ribbed vegetables such as Catalonia tend to storage dirt and insects inside, so clean them carefully.
To prepare the sprouts, remove the green leaves, cut the head in its hardest part. From the stems you obtain, you get the real Puntarelle. Cut each bud lengthwise several times until you get thin strips. To get the typical curled shape, dip them in iced water (lots of ice), and add a little lemon as you cut.
Let them soak for at least an hour, keeping the water very cold so you get really crunchy Puntarelle. Note: if you cut the strips too thick, they won’t curl, make sure to cut them thin, and to immerse them in very cold water.
You can cook them or not, raw Puntarelle seasoned with oil, anchovy fillets and a little wine vinegar is already perfect. Nothing could be simpler for a fresh recipe, which does not degrade thermolabile vitamins, and rich in fatty acids.
The Puntarelle can, of course, be cooked in many ways, steamed, in a pan or in the oven.