Useful info, tips and ideas for using agretti in the kitchen

Only a few months to enjoy this low-calorie vegetable, rich in properties and very versatile in the kitchen. Here are many ideas to prepare it.

Agretti, a seasonal vegetable also known as friar’s beard, which is found only in spring, or rather between the months of February and May.
Crunchy and with a slightly bitter aftertaste, they are a delicacy rich in nutritional properties and versatility in the kitchen.
Steamed or in a pan, in omelettes or first courses, agretti are a perfect accompaniment and protagonists of the spring table.
They are perfect enjoyed just blanched with a touch of fresh chilli, oil and chopped almonds.

Agretti or friar beards are a herb similar to chives, with a firm texture and a fresh flavor characterized by a delicate and pleasant bitter aftertaste. They can only be tasted a few months a year: in fact, they can only be found on the market from February to May, the period in which they grow (and can also be found on the shelf of fresh vegetables at the supermarket).

Agretti or friar beards are a plant with a thousand virtues that has also been appreciated in the kitchen, so much so that it has its own “name” depending on the region in which it is used: in Romagna, they are “lischi” or “liscari”, in Umbria “Riscoli”, in the Marche “rospici” or “Arescani”. We all know them with the name “beards of the friars”, precisely because of the shape that resembles a long beard.

Refreshing, diuretic, purifying and remineralizing, agretti are the perfect side dish for those who want to combine health, well-being and taste.
With only 17 calories per 100 grams, the friar’s beards are among the “light” foods richest in beneficial substances, rich in vitamins and mineral salts, the agretti help to keep our body in a state of well-being. The content of potassium, magnesium and iron is high, as is the quantity of vitamins, especially B9.
Another reason why agretti are friends of health is that they are very rich in water: allies of good circulation, they also help to combat cellulite.
Many scientific studies have shown that agretti possess useful nutrients for the well-being of our body. In fact, various Salsola species have been used effectively in the treatment of hypertension and for their hypoglycemic effects. The compounds that give these properties to agretti are flavonoids, acetophenones, coumarins and sterols. Equally important is the presence of other substances, such as the simple alkaloids of tetrahydroisoquinoline (TIQ).
But, lately research has focused a lot on TIQs as they seem to have important properties: they affect the vegetative nervous system, show a powerful and often selective cytotoxicity (exploitable in anticancer therapies) and finally have antimicrobial, antimalarial, antiviral and anti-HIV.
Let’s see what are the properties that natural medicine and nutraceuticals attribute to agretti today.

Depuratives and diuretics

Agretti have a strong purifying effect on our body: they help eliminate toxins and, according to traditional Chinese medicine, purify the blood. This property would be due to the large amount of water, fiber and mineral salts which, together, have an excellent effect on diuresis as well as on intestinal regularity.

Natural laxative

Agretti are a good source of dietary fiber, non-digestible plant compounds that help slow the intestinal transit time and add bulk to the stool, stimulating peristalsis and relieving constipation.

Antioxidant, anti-aging and protective action

Thanks to the excellent supply of vitamins (A, group B, C, and K), the agretti increase our body’s defenses and protect it from harmful substances such as free radicals. Furthermore, the vitamin C content is particularly high: however, remember that the heat released during cooking destroys it to a large extent. Agretti are also rich in B vitamins, in particular B9, or folic acid: they are therefore valuable in the diet of pregnant women. B vitamins are also involved in the formation of red blood cells and in the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The combination of thiamine (B1) and folic acid (B9) intervenes in the stimulation of brain activity and concentration: agretti are thus also useful in the prevention of cognitive disorders. The large amount of provitamin A (beta-carotene, precursor of Vitamin A) strengthens the body’s defenses and keeps the cardiovascular system, the visual and skeletal systems healthy.

Mineral salts that are beneficial for bones, teeth and heart

Mineral salts, present in large quantities, are truly the trump card of agretti:
calcium helps develop and strengthen bones and teeth;
iron reduces the fatigue associated with anemia and intervenes in the formation of red blood cells;
potassium helps, together with magnesium, to keep blood pressure under control, allows the transmission of nerve impulses, regulates the heartbeat, fights excess sodium, maintains the proper functioning of cells, regulates the functionality of the kidneys and glands adrenals.
Therefore, the combination of minerals with vitamins makes agretti a perfect food for sportsmen. Vitamin K and calcium in association with chlorophyll are also responsible for keeping our bones in shape and strength.

Lots of fiber and low in fat: perfect for a diet

Agretti, with 17 calories per 100 grams of product, are excellent in low-calorie diets: they contain very few carbohydrates, lipids are practically absent and the fibers make them a highly satiating food.

Agretti for the prevention of Alzheimer’s

The antioxidant and anti-cholinesterase properties of the alkaloids present in agretti are the subject of important scientific research. In fact, they are studying how to make natural medicines for Alzheimer’s treatment from these herbs.

It would seem that the salsola alkaloid extract affects not only the enzyme already target of current therapies, acetyl cholinesterase, but also butyryl-cholinesterase, a recently discovered medical target.

They fight hypertension

Recent scientific research on natural antihypertensive products has shown that some compounds found in agretti could be used to normalize blood pressure such as:

• terpenoids
• alkaloids
• tannins
• proanthocyanidins
• flavonoids.

Here are 10 ideas for using agretti in the kitchen

1. WITH TOMATOES AND ANCHOVIES – They are excellent, always after having blanched them, accompanied with tomatoes and anchovies, also to season a first course.

2. WITH FISH – Agretti are an excellent and tasty accompaniment to fish: try them with salmon, octopus or sea bass

3. LIGHT SINGLE DISH – They become a quick single dish in a warm salad of agretti, tuna, boiled new potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, lemon and pepper.

4. WITH PASTA – Even the first courses with agretti offer easy, fresh and original recipes (and quick, since you can blanch the agretti before). For example, skipping spaghetti in a pan with oil, garlic, chopped agretti and cherry tomatoes. You can garnish the dish with toasted pine nuts or almonds.

5. GOURMET IDEA-Try them also by tossing them in a pan with a clove of garlic with freshly drained Maccheroncini di Campofilone PGI, oil, Taggiasca olives and dried tomatoes. You can grate a little organic lemon zest at the end.

6. WITH FRITTATA – In the omelette the agretti are a tasty discovery: add them to the beaten egg mixture, with a little salt and pepper and proceed as for a normal omelette.
7. WITH CHEESE – Agretti also go well with cheese: sautéed in butter instead of oil or garnished with grated Parmesan cheese, black pepper and served still hot.
8. ETHNIC TOUCH – Give agretti an ethnic touch by tossing them in a wok along with chunks of chicken, almonds and soy sauce.
9. SALT CAKE FOR THE PICNIC – For a picnic, prepare a quiche with puff pastry and stuffed with chopped agretti and mixed with an egg, ricotta, grated parmesan, salt and pepper. Bake in a static oven at 180 until the surface browns (max 20 minutes).
10. SPRING RAMEN VEG A spring soup with a monk’s beard and seasonal spring products, such as carrots, asparagus, cabbage, new potatoes cut into small pieces. If you like, add a boiled egg cut in half to the soup for each dish before serving.