Agretti (a.k.a. Monk’s Beard)
Agretti is also known as monk’s beard or barba di frate. It’s a little like samphire and has a lovely firm texture. It’s native to Mediterranean seashores. Nowadays, it is picked wild or cultivated, sometimes in large greenhouses. In ancient times it would have been collected as winter greens. To prepare, in one motion cut off the bottom of the bundle to remove the roots, then rinse.
Simply steamed or blanched and eaten with a little olive oil and lemon juice, or with butter and anchovies.
Serve as a side, mixed with roasted nuts to add crunch.
Mixed into pasta (see julskitchen.com for a couple of great recipes)
Stir through risottos.
In this article in Red magasine, chef Florence Knight says: “'I’ve been using agretti, or monks beard, for years and its arrival, along with rhubarb, heralds the end of winter, which is always joyful. It’s especially prized in Italy where it is traditionally paired with anchovies, bacon, chilli and olive oil. … The flavour is a little more grassy than spinach and it is much more succulent. I prefer it to have a slight crunch but you can cook it until it is soft and noodley. I like to serve it wilted with clams, cooked in chilli and lemon spooned over a creamy burrata or as a little side dish with melted anchovies, garlic and olive oil.'