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Radicchio adds color to America's salad bowl

In Watsonville radicchio isn't just an ingredient to a salad, it's the symbol for one family's unique history.


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In Watsonville radicchio isn't just an ingredient to a salad, it's the symbol for one family's unique history.

The story of J. Marchini Farms revolves around family, friends and successful farming--without them J. Marchini Farms may have never succeeded, and radicchio wouldn't have made it into America's salad bowl. It all began in the early part of the 1900s when Florindo Marchini made the long and uncertain trip from Italy, bringing along with him an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for farming--both of which he passed on to his son Joe.

A true farmer at heart, Joe always liked to grow vegetable varieties that no one else had and with radicchio he found a gem. He experimented at first in his backyard and then hit it big with the salad revolution in the 1980s. What started out as a small backyard crop eventually turned into a full time career, with Joe becoming the nation's first radicchio farmer.

"During the late 1980s people used to eat more salads," said Marc Marchini, Joe's grandson. "Companies like Fresh Express, Ready Pac and big lettuce growers who had been doing the whole head business, said ''Let's cut it up, mix it together and sell it.' And we were lucky enough to have radicchio included in that mix."

Native to Italy, the vegetable is still popular there but continues to gain fans in the United States with each new leaf eaten. At Pizza Antica in Mill Valley, Chef Gordon Drysdale says he tosses radicchio into a variety of dishes to add complexity and a deeper flavor.

From the salad bowls of talented chefs to the salad bowl of America, salad greens of every color, shape and size are now a staple of California cuisine. No matter how you enjoy them, as long as you enjoy them farmers across the state couldn't be happier.

For more information about J. Marchini and Sons produce, visit www.jmarchiniandson.com.

For more information about Pizza Antica, visit www.pizzaantica.com.


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