How to grow agretti or friar's beard

How to grow agretti or friar's beard

Agretti are a not very common vegetable, which is often unjustly forgotten by those who cultivate the garden. however, this vegetable, albeit minor, is present in the culinary tradition of different parts of Italy, given that the agretti plant (soda sauce) is a species of Mediterranean origin, which is found spontaneously on the coasts of almost all of Italy. It is a succulent herbaceous plant with an annual cycle. From Europe, the plant was brought to America and found a natural habitat on the coast of California, where it has become a very widespread weed crop.

In the different areas this vegetable has taken different names, often very characteristic: the most used is the picturesque name of "barba del frate", with a variant of "barba del negus", but agretti are also referred to as rosciano, roscano or redcolo . The plant is part of the Chenopodiaceae family, like spinach and beets, of which it shares some characteristics.

This vegetable is characterized by tubular and thread-like leaves, which are cooked like spinach to form a tasty side dish, rich in mineral salts. Agretti are also an excellent ingredient for quiches or omelettes. It should be noted that it is not easy to find this vegetable from greengrocers, but when it is found it often has a high cost. In reality, it is not difficult to grow the friar's beard in the garden, and this is one more reason to sow this plant. The defect of the agretto is the low yield of each plant, which determines the market cost, however this is offset by the excellent flavor.

Favorable climate and terrain

As anticipated, the friar's beard plant lives spontaneously on coastal areas, this reveals to us that it is a plant that loves a mild climate and saline soil. The agretto fears frost and stagnation of water, while it tolerates drought quite well and also adapts to poor soil. It is poorly found on compact and clayey soils.

To plant it, you need to choose a sunny area of ​​the garden, work the soil well and fertilize moderately, in particular by avoiding excess nitrogen.

How and when agretti are sown

Sowing period. For the sowing of the friar's beard, as for any other crop, it is important to choose the right sowing period, the best time for this vegetable is spring, as soon as the temperatures allow it. Sowing can begin in March or April, depending on the climatic zone in which the garden is located, and can be continued until September. The cultivation cycle of agretti is quite short: in fact, it is recommended to harvest 30/40 days after sowing, in order to have young and tender leaves. In a family garden it is worth sowing the vegetables in a gradual way, to have a diluted harvest over time that allows regular availability of vegetables.

Moon phase. Being a leafy vegetable for those who want to follow the moon in sowing, it is necessary to do the work in the growing moon, a period that is said to be favorable to the vegetative part of the crop.

How to sow. Rosican or agretto seeds are easily found, on the web or in the most well-stocked nurseries, due to their rapid cycle it is advisable to put them directly in the field, avoiding going through seedbed and transplanting. Since germination is a bit slow, it may be worth soaking the seeds for a few hours, perhaps in chamomile. The best cultivation technique is the sowing per row, tracing a shallow furrow and placing the seedlings at about 15/20 cm from each other.

The cultivation of the friar's beard

It is not difficult to grow this vegetable, both for its rusticity characteristic of spontaneous herbs, and for the short period of cultivation. Since the agretti are in the garden for a month or so, there is no time for the development of weeds particularly aggressive, it is still necessary to keep the flowerbed clean with careful weeding.

Also insects and diseases they are less common than other vegetables, as harvest often occurs before problems arise. However, the vegetable must be safeguarded from snails, which love the more tender leaves of this plant.

This plant resists drought, but to have the quality and rapid development of the friar's beard it is good to irrigate as needed, and in very hot areas it is also advisable to shade on the sunniest days.

Cultivation in pots

Agretti can also be simply grown in pots, possibly planting them on a sunny terrace. The container should be of medium size, it is very important that it has drainage at the bottom, such as gravel or expanded clay. The soil to be used can be made softer by adding sand and enriched with a little earthworm humus.

Collect the agretti

The harvest of the friar's beard must take place when the bush does not reach 20 centimeters in height, even if the plant can reach even over half a meter if they grow too much the leaves become leathery and are no longer good to cook. For this reason, the harvest must take place shortly after sowing, usually a month is enough. It is harvested by cutting the plant at the base.