food / ingredients / stream

Monksbeard / Agretti / Barbe dei Frati / Salsola Soda

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One succulent shrub, many names and uses. Hailing from the tuscan region of Italy, Agretti is, in taste, a gentler version of the more common Samphire. Not only is the consistency softer, but it is also less salty and instead has some spinach-like elements to its taste.

It is in season for only 5 weeks in Spring, which is why I was especially happy to get my hands on some this year at my local market. I had never tried it before and was pleasantly surprised by the intriguing taste, having tried samphire for the first time a week earlier.

It grows naturally near the coast, but I have now also read that some people have no problems growing it inland. I wonder how that impacts the taste though…

In the past its stems were cultivated to make soda ash, which in turn was used in glassmaking processes by big manufacturers such as Murano, for the clarity it created. When synthetic methods were discovered to replace it, Salsola Soda became more of a local everyday food.


Some ways to cook:

when young fresh in salads

as a side dish steamed lightly and dressed with lemon, oil and freshly ground peppercorns

in pasta or risotto added quite near the end so that it doesn’t fall apart completely – intertwines nicely with spaghetti or pici

in tarts or quiche just be careful not to put it in too early

with fish with it’s delicate flavours it is best suited to fish and fruti di mare, but due to it’s slightly earthy notes could also be served with red meat

One thought on “Monksbeard / Agretti / Barbe dei Frati / Salsola Soda

  1. Pingback: pici aglio, olio i peperoncino (re-done) | the notepad

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