From our Eco-Gardens this year you may have had our Stir Fry Bags through the Cornish Food Box Company. They contain a selection of seasonal leafy vegetables for you to chop and create quick dishes full of nutrition and varied flavours. As the Summer crops came in and we began growing less kales, we started putting in some unusual crops like Agretti. With its round needle-like leaves, it is a succulent plant- full of moisture- and is related to other salt tolerant marsh plants such as Samphire.
Italian Marsh Plant to Cornish Stir Fry- the mysterious foodie sensation- Agretti.
It grows wild in the marshes of Italy and is also called “Barba di Fratti” – Literally “Beard of the Friars.” It was traditionally burnt and powdered and used to supply sodium carbonate to the glass-makers of Europe. The famous glass of the Island of Murano near Venice, is said to get its purity from this ingredient.
The flavour of Agretti is iron-rich, slightly salty, like spinach, and it seems to be something of a sought-after “foodie” vegetable.
Why is it so sought after? Its unusual flavour and texture, but also perhaps because it is rarely found- perhaps in the occasional London speciality markets you might see it retailing. Why so rare? Well, it is notorious for being a difficult plant to grow. For a start the seeds themselves are rare and once found many find it difficult to germinate them- usually getting about 30% germination- and the seed is also not meant to last long in storage either.
Last year because of floods in Italy, where Agretti seed is harvested, the harvest was a third of what it normally is. We thank our seed supplier, Kings, for finding some for us, as they ran out very fast.
To blow our own trumpet, I can reveal that our head-grower, Paul, seems to have a knack with these rare and wonderful seeds. He usually has a 95% success rate getting them germinated and has stored the seeds for over a year before sowing them out with reduced but reasonable success. It is a strange plant to see in its infancy.
With its straggly, colourless shoots it barely looks alive as it emerges from the compost. Eventually it looks more familiar, transforming into little, spiky seedlings. The plant seems to like the sandy soil and damp climate of Cornwall and it is now our fifth year of growing it.
We hope you enjoy it and if you would like to see full bags of it in future in your boxes- let us know and we can sow more rare seeds out next year!!!