Christine Burns Rudalevige makes a chicory salad using local chicories, feta and hazelnuts. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe

At the ripe old age of 55, I promise myself that once I learn one new thing in a day, I get to take a nap. The rest, preferably taken on the living room couch, under a cozy blanket, with a fire crackling in the hearth, is a just carrot for cultivating a curious mind, I reason. Or maybe it’s simply how I justify my daily 30 minutes of midday shuteye.

In any case, I recently took a nap because I learned my wintertime salad ingredient of choice – rich, pleasingly bitter, gorgeously pink, purple and yellowy-green chicories, endives and radicchios – aren’t brought to market in season-extending greenhouses in Maine as I had thought. They can be, in fact, winter storage vegetables just like carrots, beets and winter squash! Who knew? Certainly not me. Zzzzzz.

It was a Tuesday. The previous Saturday, I’d brought home two each of the three types of pink, red and purple radicchio that Six River Farm had on offer at the Brunswick winter farmers market that’s housed in the Fort Andross mill complex. I had a food-forward friend visiting from Boston, and I knew she’d want a selection, too. Coincidentally, my share from Family Dinner, a local food aggregation and distribution service that operates out of Fork Food Lab in Portland, was sitting on my stoop. Along with pork chops from Broad Arrow Farm, haddock from True Fin and a few other items, the bag held a conical head of a yellow/green chicory grown by Dandelion Springs Farm, which is located, like Six River Farm, in Bowdoinham.

I put my chicory and radicchio booty in a bowl on the counter, where the composition looked more like a local flower arrangement than dinner. I thought, “Take picture of that and write a column about how local radicchio can help brighten the short days of Maine’s long winter!”

Local chicories – the beauty queen of leafy greens. Eat them? Or frame them? Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

I reached out to the farmers to confirm my suspicion that these beauties were raised in greenhouses. “I’m glad you enjoyed the radicchio! They are quite special this time of year,” wrote Nate Drummond, whose family owns and operates Six River Farm. He went on to explain that the heads for sale in January from his farm were grown in the field, harvested in November, and placed in cold storage to be sold until they run out.

“Similar to a cabbage, it stores surprisingly well. Radicchio grows best for us in the cooler weather of the fall and is fairly cold tolerant, able to withstand temperatures into the upper 20s,” he explained.

Advertisement

Drummond and his team plant about half an acre of radicchio in mid- to late-August, and those heads mature for harvest in the late fall. Then the team puts them into cold storage to be sold throughout the winter season.

Chicory varieties (radicchio is a chicory) span from curly, pale frisée and Belgian endive to pink heads that look like roses and dark purple heads that resemble a cluster of fingers. The conical Sugarloaf Virtus from Dandelion Springs Farm are 10-inch-tall heads with soft-green exterior leaves and a crisp, blanched interior. The variety of Chioggia that is grown at Six River Farm (Chioggia is the classic round, red radicchio head you can also find at the grocery store) is called Leonardo, and its seeds are sourced from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow. Drummond says the variegated Chioggia he sells (a speckled/striped version of a chioggia radicchio) is called Galileo; its seed came from Osborne Quality Seeds in Washington state, another region where radicchio thrives. The type of Treviso that Drummond grows (a milder class of radicchio shaped more like a romaine lettuce heart) – is called Baldo, and the seeds are also from Osborne.

Get them while they last – Drummond says his own supply will likely run out in early February – and signal to your favorite farmers that they should plant more chicory next fall to brighten your winter.

Sprinkle hazelnuts on the chicory salad, then serve. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Local Chicory, Feta and Hazelnut Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing

This salad is attractive on several levels. First, the gorgeous chicories that local farmers are selling for just a few more weeks make it very easy on eyes. Plus, it has everything your tastebuds desire in one bowl: bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami flavors. Finally, it’s versatile. It’s an easy side dish for a weeknight roast chicken, impressive enough for a dinner party, and makes for a great lunchbox (or potluck) salad, as even a couple hours after it’s dressed, the hearty leaves won’t wilt.

Serves 4

Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups washed and torn mixed chicory, endive and radicchio
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
1/4 cup chopped and roasted hazelnuts

Combine the lemon zest and juice, shallot, honey, and salt and pepper in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Let the combination sit 15 minutes to mellow out the shallots. Whisk in the olive oil. Add mixed chicory, endive and radicchio and toss to coat the leaves well. Sprinkle feta and nuts over the top of the salad and serve.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.