CITRUS BITES: Agretti … Spring time in Italy

A large handful of agretti, the spring vegetable from central Italy

Agretti! I spotted the word in an Instagram post with by chef @kentcooking and it intrigued me. After mentioning my interest in this, a comment from Rome, Italy-based chef and teacher @carla_tomasi suggested I had better be quick as this vegetable was in season in Spring and this year’s Spring was already reshaping into Summer.

A trip to the market would tell me whether I would need to wait another year to try it fresh. In the northern Italian town of 27,000 people where I live three markets are held on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday, with a couple running on two days.

Prepped and ready for the pot

I found a bunch on agretti at the final stall at the third market I’d visited. Yes, the season as certainly coming to an end. Mostly grown in central Italy, the fleshy leaves are best served simply, with olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice

The stallholder rummaged around at the back of her stall and pulled out a huge bunch of the splindly, green veg that is vaguely reminiscent of the foraged seaside plant samphire, a grassy clump of greenery, its also known as ‘barba di frate, or monks beard.

Another instagrammer @kelda68 kindly suggested this recipe for my newly acquired agretti. Lighly boiled and sautéed Serve it as a side dish, like spinach, or perhaps as a bed on which poached fish can rest. It’s delicious, light and fresh if eaten raw (washed and roughly chopped), and like a young spinach if cooked as below.

Cooked, agretti cooked along with plenty of garlic, EVOO and lemon juice

Agretti – Heaven on a plate

For two servings
Cook time, 10 mins

Bunch of agretti (roots removed, washed)
Salt, pinch
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Two garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon, halved for juicing and zesting

Place agretti in a pan of lightly salted boiling water (5 mins)

Lightly fry in a pan with garlic EVOO

Serve, hot or cold, with more EVOO and lemon juice and zest.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.

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