*This seed is offered as part of the "Gusto Italiano Project", a collaborative partnership between Uprising Seeds, Italian breeders Smarties.Bio, and the Culinary Breeding Network. Certified organic seed is grown in Italy by Smarties.Bio.
Type: Pan di Zucchero
Days to Maturity (slot): 100 days
Here's a story for you. For several years now, there has been an exchange happening between a group of PNW growers and chefs and a group of breeders and growers in northern Italy around a shared love of radicchio. After a couple trips where delegations of American growers visited and toured farms in Italy, experiencing the place the crop occupies in the cultural and culinary fabric of its homeland, finally, in the fall of 2022, we had the opportunity to host several of our Italian friends for a tour of our farms here in the PNW to share how radicchio is taking root in our own communities. In Portland, OR the trip culminated in the third annual edition of the "Sagra del Radicchio" organized by Lane Selman of the Culinary Breeding Network, a joyful celebration of all things Radicchio, with tastings, farmer-chef collaborations, culinary workshops, and a growers symposium. Suffice it to say the Italians were amazed and moved to see such an outpouring of enthusiasm, so far from home, for a crop that means so much to them.
At the growers' symposium, our dear friend Andrea Ghedina, radicchio breeder and co-founder of Smarties.bio with whom we have collaborated for several years now, was fielding questions when someone asked him about the 'Pan di Zucchero' or Sugarloaf types. He got quite serious, gave them a hard stare, and replied "Let us be clear, Pan di Zucchero is just green leaves to fill the bags". Commercial salad bag filler. He might have even spat a little bit.
My first thought was, "Awkward...glad I am not behind the sugarloaf table at the event tomorrow". My second thought was that this might be an example of where crops come to a new place and have the opportunity to take on new roles and reinvent themselves, right? In spite of our best efforts, romaine is still king in the American fall salad market, and frankly, sugarloaf is probably the best like-for-like replacement the chicory family has to put up as an alternative. Sugarloaf was, ironically, many American growers' early introduction to growing radicchio as a crop in that it was one of the first radicchio types that had good quality seed available here (remember 'Borca'?), and it's very minimal bitter flavor, balanced by natural sweetness, was more palatable to customers than the Chioggia types (the other type primarily in the market back then) for people getting used to the idea of bitter greens. Uniform green heads have a very upright habit, creating a densely wrapped column of crisp and only very mildly bitter leaves..."foglia crocconte". They're big! While they don't have the sex appeal of the bright colors and fantastical forms of other types, a sugarloaf head halved the long way, given light char on the grill and torn into a fattoush salad with a preserved lemon dressing is getting close to perfection as far as I am concerned. I mean, I am not one to argue with an Italian radicchio breeder about the merits of different types of radicchio (demonstrably not true), but I will say: later that day Andrea pulled me aside with a smile and said "actually I have a pan di zucchero I am producing seed of. I think you should probably sell it..."
Packet: 100 seeds