A delicious, slightly salty vegetable of many names: roscano, barba di frate, liscari, ariscolo, riscoli, or rospici, or barbe di frate (friar’s beards) or maybe even the inexplicable senape del monaco (monk’s mustard). Popular especially in central Italy, where it appears in the markets in spring. Agretti taste a bit like spinach, only with a consistency like thin noodles—think of it as linear spinach. Besides being delicious, agretti are astoundingly virtuous: low calories, lots of iron, calcium, and other minerals, lots of vitamin B3 and C. It’s mildly diuretic, mopping up those awful triglycerides and cholesterol in your blood. Popeye could have beat the whole Red Army with a can of this.
Very trendy these days, agretti are usually served cold with oil and lemon as a salad, or as an accompaniment to seafood antipasti.
Agretti are often confused with salicornia, or marsh samphire, to which they are closely related.
Images by: Michael Pauls