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.
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.
Agretti – Heaven on a plate
For two servings
Cook time, 10 mins
Bunch of agretti (roots removed, washed)
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.