We came across Antonello’s chicories at the Lusia market in 2013. The striking colour of his chicories stood out as a sign of genuine sand-forced growing. A technique abandoned by many growers in favour of higher-yielding, higher-capacity forcing, our support is vital for the future of this cultural artistry. To reinforce our support, since 2015 we have bypassed the market and rooted our partnership direct in his fields.
Antonello cultivates in open fields, without the use of chemical sprays or fertilisers. Industrial producers harvest and force their plants regardless of the climate to meet market demand, producing dull, spongy leaves. Antonello only harvests his plants for forcing after the first hard frosts, once the cold has intensified both colour and flavour.
Pared back, Antonello transfers the plants into forcing sheds. His now near-extinct sand-forcing technique produces chicories with delicately-balanced flavour, dense texture and striking colour.
Rosella di Lusia
We are the sole importer of Antonello’s sand-forced Rosella di Lusia, developed over nine years by saving his own seeds from his best-performing plants. The plants develop a rose-like shape with a crisp texture that can only be achieved through careful forcing.
Industrial producers harvest and force their plants regardless of the climate to meet market demand, producing dull, spongy leaves. Antonello waits for the first frost before harvesting his outdoor grown Castelfranco. Left to regrow for over 20 days in the dark, Antonello’s Castelfranco has very tightly furled, dense leaved heads and highly-developed ribs.
Now widely-available on the market, Antonello is one of the last growers to sand-force Pink Radicchio. Its rise in popularity has driven most growers to abandon this traditional technique in favour of higher-yielding methods. Slightly milder than the darker-leaved varieties, it has the same audible crunch.