A rarity amongst vegetables, this Italian leafy green is highly sought after by top American chefs. Agretti, also called Roscano, Saltwort, or Barba dif rate, is translated in English as the monks beard. Originating in the region of Lazio, near the capital of Rome, Agretti was introduced into Roman cuisine as part of ‘la cucina povera,’ or that of the common man. The green vegetable provides a good source of vitamin A, iron, and calcium. Along with other vegetables derived from Lazio, Agretti should be prepared as simply as possible, due to its vibrant flavors. Agretti is often prepared raw in salads or boiled with olive oil, allowing its salty, bitter essence to stand out.
The uniqueness of this plant is, in part, due to its short window for sowing, with availability limited to the spring and early summer. Although agretti is known to be obscure and scarce, when you do get the chance to taste the green vegetable, it is a delectable experience. Its crunchy texture and acidic taste is reminiscent of all that is springtime.
What looks like a bushel of green chives with longer stalks, agretti can be found growing in marshes. Classified as the edible leaves of Salsola Soda, Latin for salt, the plant has historic importance as a source of soda ash used in glassmaking and soap making. Today, you can find agretti on most Italian antipasti menus, as well as in some Japanese cuisines.
If you happen to find this crisp green vegetable in a market near you, eat it fast before spring is over… or come to Babbo and let us serve it to you!
Recipe Suggestion: Agretti all Romana