Spring at the table with Agretti
During the month of March, you can’t avoid them when browsing the market stalls: agretti are a fixed seasonal presence that many people look forward to. Agretti are known by many names, some of them on the quirky or curiosity-inducing side, such as Barba di Frate, bacicci or lischi. Sometimes they get confused with chives because of their elongated shape, but their taste leaves no room for doubt.
“During the month of March, you can’t avoid them when browsing the market stalls: agretti are a fixed seasonal presence that many people look forward to.”
Agretti are the sprouts of Salsola Soda, a plant which spontaneously grows on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. In Italy the plant is cultivated mainly in Lazio and Romagna. While today it is used in colorful and healthy recipes, in the past this plant had primarily non-culinary functions. From its combustion, you can obtain soda, used in the production of glass, as well as soaps. As might be easy to guess, the name ‘agretti’ comes from their acidulous taste. As for the perfect moment to pick them, it’s always best to judge by the color they take on: the roots should be reddened, gradually turning white, and culminating in a brilliant green.
This vegetable is rich in water and therefore good for digestion. Agretti also contains vitamins, in particular vitamins A and B which combine with potassium, calcium, iron and fibers to make it an all-around healthy choice. In order to preserve taste and properties, they are usually consumed steamed. They have a very low calorie count and fit in well to a balanced diet. Stored in the refrigerator, they easily deteriorate, so here is an easy, fast and delicious recipe, to taste them at their best.
This is a typical Italian first course, risotto, where the color of saffron combines memorably with the strong taste of agretti. These two ingredients are both immensely helpful to our well-being. The most complicated phase of the whole recipe is the cleaning of the agretti: the complete removal of dirt might take a little longer than you’d expect.
“As for the perfect moment to pick them, it’s always best to judge by the color they take on: the roots should be reddened, gradually turning white, and culminating in a brilliant green.”
To prepare this risotto for four people, you will need 300 gr of rice that will be toasted in a saucepan with butter and onion. After deglazing with 100 ml of dry white wine, cook the rice with hot vegetable stock, adding a little more as it dries up, bit by bit, until it has been cooked through. In a glass of this hot stock, you will have dissolved a sachet of saffron, which will also be added to the rice. When the dish is almost ready, add the lightly blanched agretti. With the heat off, stir in 20g of butter and 30g of Parmesan cheese for a minute. Then enjoy this healthy and tasty dish with a springtime staple!
Patrizia, born in 1992, graduated in Architecture at the Politecnico of Milano. I’ve always loved this world of stories, stories and construction techniques, but what really didn’t convince me was the idea of spending my life between subway trips, fixed schedules, patterns and habit. It was exactly in front of the possibility of having a permanent contract that I decided to leave for America. To do what, you may be wondering? To realize the first of my many dreams: being a cook. And here I am, writing stories of my travels, of the people I met during my transoceanic trips and handing down the recipes of the dishes I taste around the world.