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Spadona chicory has long, thin leaves and a short light green stem. The dark green leaves are rounded and smooth without any serration boasting an assertive chicory flavor. The leaves are best harvested when young and tender. Mature leaves will take on a stronger flavor and develop a slightly downy texture.
Spadona chicory is available in the late fall and winter months.
Spadona chicory is also known as Sword chicory, Spadona da Taglio and Lingua di Cane (Dogs Tongue chicory) and botanically classified as Chicorium intybus Spadona. Spadona chicory is known as a variety of cutting or lose leaf chicory along with Catalonia chicory. Unlike varieties of chicory that are harvested as a head with roots attached Spadona chicory has loose lengthy leaves which are individually harvested in a cutting not de-rooting fashion.
Spadona chicory can be utilized in both its raw and cooked form. Its leaves are tender enough for salads, their bitter flavor marrying well in mixes containing milder, sweeter greens and herbs. Leaves can be sautéed or boiled into soups, stews and sauces. Blanching leaves before using will slightly mellow their bitter bite. Pair with salty and sweet ingredients such as pomegranate seeds, citrus, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, persimmon, cream based sauces and dressings, toasted pecans, bacon and robust cheeses. Leaves of Spadona will keep best wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, use within one week.
Like many chicories Spadona is native to the Veneto region of northern Italy. It thrives in cool climates and is fairly resistant to frost. When harvested Spadona leaves are cut off just a few inches from their base. If left the cut bases will re-sprout again, though for best flavor and texture it is recommended to start with a fresh seedling after one or two harvests. Unlike many other varieties of chicory Spadona are not given a forced second growth.