by The Culinistas
As spring rolls around once again, it’s time to scour the Farmer’s Market for the best of the best: all of the fresh produce and ingredients we know and love, but only get to enjoy for a short spring and summer season.
One of our favorites in this category is agretti, also known as Saltwort, Friar’s Beard, or Land Seaweed. It is native to Italy and is often found on the shores around the Mediterranean sea. Once used as a source for soap and glass production, this salt-tolerant plant is closely related to spinach and beets, although looks nothing like either with its succulent-like leaves. It’s seasonality also differs greatly from that of spinach and beets, as agretti is only available during a short few months in the spring. Make sure to check your local market as soon as possible to get your hands on this precious produce.
Full of nutritional benefits, agretti plays a major role in cleansing the body of toxins and purifying the blood, while also regulating basic bodily functions. A great source of fiber, agretti also assists in regulating your intestines and relieving any constipation. Agretti also contains high amounts of Vitamins A, K, and C. Vitamin A works to keep the immune system healthy and assists in general growth and development. Vitamin K regulates the metabolism, balances blood calcium levels, and helps in blood coagulation. Vitamin C repairs damaged tissues and assists in the production of important neurotransmitters (brain power, brain power!).
In terms of preparation, agretti can be eaten both raw or cooked. When cooking agretti, you will be able to draw out a flavor reflective of spinach. James Kelly, Executive Chef at Lupa Osteria Romana, shared with us his favorite preparation method: “My favorite way to eat Agretti is pickled either sweet or sour style. The flavor and texture shine through especially with grilled fish in the summertime.” We also suggest tossing raw agretti leaves onto a salad to add a bit of crunch. It’s slightly salted flavor will also help to season your dish, amplifying the other components.