Posts Tagged Salad

Agretti (Salsola soda)

Family: Amaranthaceae  Subfamily: Chenopodiaceae

Agretti, also known as Salsola Soda, Liscari, Barilla (Spanish) and Barba di Frate, Roscano or Agretto (Italian). A Mediterranean vegetable with thin succulent needle like leaves that grow on small bushy plants and is used mainly in Umbria and Lazio in pasta, seafood and fish dishes [1].

History Salsola soda is native in Eurasia and North Africa. Historically, it was well-known in Italy, Sicily, and Spain. In modern Europe, it is also found on the Atlantic coasts of France and Portugal and on the Black Sea coast [2]

Site & Soil It is a halophyte (a salt-tolerant plant) that typically grows in coastal regions and can be irrigated with salt water.
Temperature Min °C
Sow ? Feb-March Sept-Oct
Plant out ? April
Spacing 30-45cm apart
Crops in: 50 days
Harvest June-July
Seed Life 1-2 years
Germination 7-10 days

Propagation I sowed ia 1/4 tray in February and planted out in April.

Direct Sow 1cm deep spaced 10-15cm apart thin to 20-30cm apart. Some sources say this plant is not a summer green and should be started early indoors or in Autumn. In hot areas I would tend to agree with that as it gets woody quickly in dry conditions.   

Care Keep weed free generally seems to be pest free

Harvest Salsola soda is harvested in bunches when small, or cropped regularly to encourage new growth when mature. Start cutting from the plants when they are about 6-8 inches tall. Cut the green tops or sections of the plant; it then will regrow

Botany and Seed Saving Franchi say agretti never has more than 50% germination due to the nature of the seed and its volatility. Wiki says the seed is notorious for poor germination at about 30% to 40% standard. The seeds I had were over 80%.

Use The plant has great historical importance as a source of soda ash, which was extracted from the ashes of Salsola soda and other saltwort plants. Soda ash is one of the alkali substances that are crucial in glass and soap making. Salsola soda has also been studied as a “biodesalinating companion plant” for crops such as tomatoes and peppers when they are grown in saline soils. The Salsola soda extracts enough sodium from the soil to improve the growth of the crop plant, and better crop yields result despite the competition of the two plants for the remaining minerals from the soil. [3]

Nutrition/Cooking Rich in vitamins & minerals. Best lightly boiled until the leaves soften but retain a little crunch, and eaten as a leafy vegetable or salad ingredient or garnish (much like Samphire). It can also be eaten raw or braised in olive oil. The flavour is grassy, salty and slightly sour and works well with seafood.

My Growing Notes

Agretti has been billed as a gourmet delicacy in Italy and in Japan, but, in truth, I didn’t really warm to this plant as a food stuff. It took a long time to develop and when it did I didn’t really like it. It had needle thin succulent type leaves on stems that became woody. It has a slightly acidic grassy taste with not much going for it at all. It is not hugely different in taste or texture to purslane but purslane is far superior in my opinion with a much better taste and crunchier, juicier texture.
I must admit I did not give it a fair go, as far as the kitchen is concerned, I did not even attempt to cook it. I munched on it as I went round the garden but, well it just didn’t inspire me to pick any and take it back to the kitchen. I could imagine using it in a late winter – early spring salad but in summer in Southern France there are too many other delicious contenders that would beat it hands down. So guiltily, knowing I hadn’t given it a fair shot, I put it out of its, and my, misery and pulled up the 6 plants and slung them on the compost heap.

I may yet give it another shot and try again and see how it crops in England, particularly in a warm wet and maritime climate like we have here in Devon. I would still like to try cooking it Japanese style or pickling it in soy or something like that. One thing for sure is that the leaves need to be used when young, 4 months after setting out and the stems were really too woody to use. This picture of the plant in early July is when, on hindsight it probably should have been picked, but it just seemed so small and hardly a mouthful

Some cultivation notes
The only cultivation information I had for it was ‘this plant is not a summer green and should be started early indoors or in Autumn’ from wiki or ‘plant as soon as ground can be worked’ from Seeds of Italy. I started mine late February and set out early April but it hardly grew until mid summer, when the heat seemed to trigger it into action. I think Colin, who I got the seeds from, had the same issue with slow growth. Here’s a link to a picture of his agretti growing Colin’s Agretti Seedlings.  I am not sure how Lieven got on. 
Germination
 was actually very good near 100% not the 30% to 40% as suggested by wikipedia 
Matures
 50 or so days according to Seeds of Italy definitely not the case in my garden.

Info Contributed by readers

Dimitris Makris wrote:  My name is Dimitris and I live in Crete. The name of Agretti here in Greece is “almira” which means salty. It’ s my favorite salad, you have to pick it up early when it’s tender avoiding the woody leaves. In Greece we cut the tender stems about 12 cm not the main stem and it grows again… how we make it as a salad here in Greece: just boil them (not much) put them on a plate and then add olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar and you’ll have the best salad for fishes or anything fried…

I also want to inform you that there is an interesting site about seeds exchange with no money here in Greece: http://www.peliti.gr.


[1] franchi

[2] info sourced from wiki

[3]

, ,

3 Comments

Rouge de Florence


Onion (Allium cepa) 'Rouge de Florence' of the Liliaceae family.

Description Rouge de Florence, is also known variously as; Rossa di Firenze, Rossa Lunga Di Firenze, Rossa di Toscana, Long Red Florence, Florence Simiane, Italian Torpedo or Italian Red Torpedo. An outstanding long, red onion that I find a joy to both grow and to eat. I love this onion, the shape the colour and the outstanding flavour. In my garden it is one of the easiest and most reliable of croppers and can be grown right through the year. It stores quite well and can be used raw or cooked so this variety definitely makes it to my list of desert island veg.

The torpedo shaped bulbs have a deep purple red colour and robust flavour. According to the seedsman Thomas Etty this onion may be synonymous with the Ox-horn Onion or spindle shaped onion (ognon Corne de Boeuf) listed by Vilmorin in The Vegetable Garden, 1885 however I would disagree with M.Vilmorin who thinks that … ‘These [pear shaped] varieties, however, are more curious than useful’. In my opinion this is a really cracking onion for the home or cook’s garden.

Origin & History This is an old variety from Tuscan Italy which I think dates back to the 1800’s.

Flavour The flavour can be mild and delicious raw but it can also become quite pungent depending on the year and how the weather effects growth. I find some years these onions are stronger than others.

CultivationSow outdoors in early spring for a summer crop or late summer for a spring crop the following year. Sow undercover from winter and transplant in early spring spacing seedlings 5cm-8cm apart in rows 30cm apart. In my garden I have had the best results sowing in trays in November, pricking out into double trays in December-January and planting out late February -March to harvest a bumper crop after midsummer.

Plants are strong and reliable growers bulbing up nicely after midsummer. They withstand light frost, heavy frost seems to make them divide, drought and heat.

Harvest Grow in succession for use fresh – 2 sowings July-Nov and March-May will provide a continuous supply. For early spring onions leave some onions in the ground over winter and harvest the new green onions that are produced as spring arrives. Harvest when tops have died down and dry as for bulb onions, see my post on Harvesting & Storing onions. Rouge de Florence will store for about 6 months.

Use I use these onions for everything, you can even pickle the small ones.
Resistance a really easy going onion that will grow in poor soil and in tough conditions. An unstoppable onion.
USP When left in the ground overinter I’ve found that these onions multiply to form clumps of 4 or 5 green onions in the spring. These new green onions can be used as spring onions and are delicious.

Grown at Mas du Diable 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Seed Source Franchi

Note seed sources generally recommend to Sow Feb-May in cool areas and in warmer areas sow from Sept to April to harvest April – Sept outdoors.

, ,

Leave a comment

Lettuces, Winter Varieties

Winter Lettuces are varieties of lettuces that can be sown late in the season, will tolerate cold and low light levels and still provide leaf pickings for the salad bowl right through winter and into spring. Some of my favourite lettuces are these hardy types because they have robust flavours, crisp leaves and good textures.

Winter Lettuce Rouge Grenobloise

Winter Lettuce Verde D’Inverno

Timing
Lettuces mature in around 50-60 days when grown at optimum temperatures but the lettuce will slow down in cold weather, a trait which gardeners can use to their advantage. In cold weather a lettuce can stand fresh and ready to be picked for 2 or more months, it won’t go to seed and if you can protect the crop from very cold or wet weather and if you can get the timing right it will stand in perfect condition right through winter. So plan your winter crop of lettuce so that it is almost ready to pick by the first frosts of winter. At that stage it is large enough to stand light frost outdoors and undercover survive happily in surounding tempertures of -10c.

Lettuces Winter Density young heads ready to cut

My pick of varieties
To get a good lettuce crop throughout winter it is best to select winter lettuce varieties, those that have proven themselves or been selected for thier growth habit and hardiness. My favourites include:
Winter Density (Cos) a lovely solid crisp green heading cos, standing tall and fairly tightly wrapped; excellent undercover in winter and outdoors in late winter/early spring. Rouge Grenobloise (Batavian) Large crispheads with red-tinted ruffled leaves, good flavour, cold hardy and will grow happily in shade; an excellent winter lettuce outdoors. Ubriacona (Loose Leaf Batavian) This Italian Heirloom has beautiful green hearts with red outer edged leaves, performs well and has great taste and texture. Provides cutting lettuce all year and will overwinter in my garden. Verde D’Inverno (Cos) Tall mid green heads crisp leaves with good taste. Stands well through winter. Rougette de Montpelier, (Butterhead) tight heading lettuce with crisp white stalks and soft green leaves tinged red at the edges, this variety can be grown undercover or outdoors but I find the flavour is better and the heads are crisper if grown outdoors. Valdor (Butterhead) I grew this lettuce for the first time 2 years ago so I am still testing it out and cannot thoroughly recommend it yet. It grew well in the polytunnel producing voluminous green heads with large fleshy leaves. But it suffered from mildew undercover, as spring approached and temperatures soured undercover, it may do better outdoors so I’ll give it another try this winter.

Varieties
Let-Rougette-de-Montpellier.jpgLettuce-Winter-Density-Poly.jpgLettuce_Ubriacona-30.4.08.jpgLettuce_Valdor-CU-4-08.jpg
Images
Rougette de Montpelier, Winter Density, Ubriacona, Valdor

Read more about growing lettuces
Cultivating Lettuces in Summer

, , ,

Leave a comment