Agretti or Monks Beard
Blanched in boiling water and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
Monks beard, or agretti as it is also known, comes from Tuscany and its very short season is with us now and only around for about 5 weeks.
The fine spindly stalks are like a smooth samphire. They are a relation of the chicory family.
This is one of those ingredients where the less you do the better. The Italians will typically serve simply with lemon juice, oil and salt after a brief dipping in boiling water and then chilling in cold water.
That is precisely what I did and it was fabulous. With so few ingredients enhancing this delicate and rarified ingredient, it's worth using the best all round. I used Cornish Sea Salt and a single estate Italian oil, which all conspire to the guaranteed results of simple, seasonal, best you can get your hands on school of cooking.
Mark Hix recommends serving it with fish. With such a strong similarity to samphire, you can see why. Adding to salad is another option. I can't help but think such a rare commodity deserves more status than being a part of a salad. Besides, it can't go unsaid that basically, it tastes like grass, and reminded me of when I did eat grass as a child (perhaps a baby, but the deep recesses of taste memory vault were visited).
On further research one can pickle the monks beard, which will be my next weeks work.