Barba di Frate (Monk's beard)
Here you have the "contorno" (side dish) from last night's dinner, some boiled potatoes and this delicious vegetable, barba di frate, a.k.a barba dei frati, agretti or monk's beard. It's a dense, heavy vegetable as muddy as spinach, so clean it well, and it's a bit of a pain to separate the edible green "leaves" from the hard, pink stem and root, but it needs only about 3-5 minutes in boiling water to turn out tasty and fresh. The "leaves" are naturally a bit salty in the way swiss chard is. Dressed simply with some lemon and a bit of the best olive oil you can buy, they're one of the most delicious springtime vegetable experiences. They're an excellent compliment to the trout "al cartoccio" (baked in parchment paper) that we had for dinner last night.
Barba di Frate was an Italian culinary revelation for me as I'd never seen it in the States but it seems that if you are willing to grow it, you can get the seeds here. To be honest, if I couldn't get this veg at the market, it would be one of those I'd take the time and effort to grow. It's really that good!