Saturday, 4 April 2009

Monks Beard or Agretti

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.


  1. Helpful post, but not quite everything culinary comes from tuscany- although particularly in the UK it is a popular, albeit naive assumption.

    This is the same as armyriki as its known in greece and farmer in crete or found in the wild near most sandy beaches. I m sure the same green is found east and north of greece.

  2. as a second suggestion, try it cooked slowly in oil and water, what in crete is called tsigariasto, and in the south of italy it is also a common good way to cook greens; slowly, and in oil & water, not fast and furious . This way you keep the nutrients and the flavour, as the water is added as needed like in a risotto, thus not needing to drain the wonderful juices.

    Chard and also Cime di rapa are great this way, although the latter takes an hour..

  3. Athanasius, thanks for your comment. I have to point out I could not be more aware of the fact that not everything culinary comes from Tuscany. If you look through this blog, more than 90% is a celebration of British artisan produce and most of it brought through the local farmers market, making it mainly local. Interesting to hear about Greece.


Please leave a comment.