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Baby Italian Agretti
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Italian Agretti is an inherently salty herbaceous green that has the appearance of thick chives crossed with fennel fronds. Italian Agretti has needle-like branches erecting from blades that join at the plant's spindly pink and white roots. Agretti's texture is distinct, overtly succulent and crunchy when raw. It has mineral, briny and tart elements, flavors that represent the plant's terroir. Agretti is often compared to having a similar flavor as spinach, without the oxalic acid. Entire plants are harvested in bunches when young and measure anywhere from eight to twelve inches in length.
Agretti's brief season occurs in the late spring to early summer.
Italian Agretti, botanically named Salsola soda, is a close relative to the Russian thistle, Salsola Kali, better known as tumbleweed. It is also related to spinach, samphire and beets. It has been erroneously called marsh grass or glasswort. Italian Agretti is also known as Monk's Beard, Roscana and Saltwort.
Agretti's flavors and texture are showcased best when served fresh, raw or through brief cooking such as blanching or sauteeing. Agretti is often utilized as an ingredient in salads, pastas and raw seafood preparations. Agretti favors companion ingredients such as lemon, garlic, olive oil, aged hard cheeses, fish such as cod and albacore, sausage, proscuitto, cream, butter lettuce, mustard greens, nuts such as hazelnuts and pine nuts, tomatoes, peppers both mild and hot and earthy forest mushrooms.
Agretti is native to wetlands of the Adriatic Sea. It is classified as a halophyte, which means it grows well when affected by salt. It grows wild and undomesticated throughout coastal wetland regions, salt marshes in Europe and the Mediterranean, and has since the early 21st Century been cultivated in coastal regions throughout Southern California. Agretti has a very short sowing window, with seeds becoming dormant after a mere four months, and it has a very weak and shallow root system. These factors contribute to Agretti's rare presence in the agricultural landscape. Cultivated Agretti is most common in Italy.
Recipes that include Baby Italian Agretti. One is easiest, three is harder.