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Puntarelle are one typical vegetables of southern and central Italy and in particular traditional in Puglia and Rome, these are the young shoots that form within the head of a particular variety of Catalonian chicory.
Growing this type of Catalonia on your own is possible and can be a gift great satisfaction even in the family garden, already in February and March the sprouts are harvested. It is a rustic species, little subject to diseases and insects, which occupies the autumn and winter garden.
The shoots of chicory are one really delicious vegetables, for those who appreciate the characteristic slightly bitter taste: they can be eaten raw, julienned in salads, or cooked in various ways, for example sautéed in a pan, in broth.
The plant of chicory
Catalonian chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a herbaceous species of the composite or asteraceae family, which forms a compact head, in which the elongated leaves and white nerbature are arranged with a rather vertical posture. In some varieties of Catalonia, gods are formed inside the clump white or light green shoots, of good diameter. These are precisely the chicory.
These jets vaguely reminiscent of white asparagus, even if they do not grow in isolated shoots but are grouped in a single bundle, hence the name of chicory asparagus. Puntarelle are also called herringbone chicory, in reference to the floral scape.
The most famous variety is the catalonia puntarelle di Galatina, which has firm and very large shoots. We also mention the Roman puntarelle, Brindisi and the puntarelle of Gaeta.
When to sow chicory chicory
The sowing period of catalonia puntarelle is very variable according to the climate. This plant requires mild temperatures, without excess heat, so it is certainly important to avoid the summer months being in the field. Typically, it is sown right at the end of the summer, starting from the end of August. In the north, this period can be anticipated, perhaps by growing the seedlings in seedbeds and transplanting them into the field in early September.
Sowing continues in autumn, until the end of September in the north, even until November in the south. It's about calculating the climate, knowing that the plant should harvest before excessive frost arrives. Although chicory can withstand the cold well, they suffer from temperatures below 6 degrees.
In many cases it can also be sown in March, if you want to do a spring cultivation, typically the autumn harvest is preferred,
We have already written about the cultivation of Catalonia, now let's see some specific advice related to the puntarelle variety, also giving some ideas on how to cook this vegetable after harvest and on what the food properties of the sprouts are.
Sowing distance. If leaf catalonia can also be sown by broadcasting, in the case of chicory it is good to plant in rows and keep a good distance between the plants. If we cultivate wide-head varieties, such as the Galatina puntarella, it is better to sow with a plant spacing a little higher than that of other chicory (60 cm between the rows, 35 cm between the plants).
Mulch. Puntarelle need slightly moist soil, but they do not like aridity. A mulch helps a lot to reduce evaporation, as well as obviously saving a lot of work for weed control.
Collection of chicory and their seasonality
The harvest period obviously depends on the sowing period, typically the season goes from February to April, but depending on the climate, it can also be grown in other periods.
The time of harvest is very important, since choosing the moment in which to remove the head determines the size of the chicory.Understanding when the right time is it's simple, just look in the head scosting the outer leaves to verify the presence of the shoots and their size. There is no rule on how big they must be, but you need to know that young shoots are smaller but more tender, letting them grow you lose quality but obviously you gain in quantity.
When we collect we cut the plant just above the ground level and we take the entire head, without however uprooting or damaging the collar. In this way we have the maximum yield: the catalonia puntarelle has practically no waste, also the external leaves are cooked like the other catalogs. Also from the head it is possible that the plant shoots new leaves and new shoots.
How they cook
Puntarelle can be eaten raw, in this case it is better to pick the young shoots when they are less fibrous. They are pleasantly crunchy and maintain the best bitter taste and nourishing properties. We can then season them with one Vinaigrette or prepare a very simple Roman-style chicory salad, seasoning the raw sprouts with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, anchovies, lemon and salt. Generally for this type of recipe after removing the sprouts, they are cut into julienne strips.
With the cooking the bitter taste is lightened a little and you have the opportunity to flavor the vegetables with different condiments. The classic method involves sauté with oil, typically puntarelle are also combined with garlic and chilli.
A particularly tasty recipe, for those who want to try something different are the sweet and sour chicory, while boiling them a highly digestive bitter broth is also obtained, which traditionally is eaten with small meatballs of minced meat and bread.
Puntarelle are a very healthy vegetable: at the level of nutritional properties contain vitamins (especially vitamin A) and above all mineral salts (in particular calcium, phosphorus and iron). They are rich in water and low in calories. To assimilate the best of the nutritional values of this vegetable without waste it must be consumed raw, in cooking inevitably its properties are lost.
As a beneficial effect it is attributed to catalonia, like many other bitter salads, to be purifying for the body. Puntarelle are diuretic and favor the digestion.