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A Taste of Italy... Grown in Herefordshire 

This trendy Italian ingredient may be gracing local menus for longer, thanks to a Wye Valley producer.

Only the most fashionable ingredients have numerous names. This in vogue vegetable is no exception. You may know it as barba di frate, agretti, saltwort, land seaweed, monk’s beard, friar’s beard, roscani or agretto. Or (and don’t worry it was new to us too), you may be yet to discover this gastronomic gem.

To keep things simple, we’ll refer to it as barba di frate from here on in. So what exactly is it you may well be wondering? The unusual vegetable hails from Italy. It has chive like leaves and a slightly acidic taste similar to spinach. It has a high concentration of potassium and calcium and is rich in vitamins A, B and C. It’s low in calories and boasts detoxifying properties.

The sought-after ingredient has previously been restricted to annual cameo appearances on top restaurant menus, due to its short-lived seven to eight week season and the logistics of importing it from Italy. However, expect to see more of these vibrant green fronds with award-winning Herefordshire vegetable producer, Amanda Stradling (owner of Wye Valley Salads) growing a succulent supply in the Wye Valley.

Barba di frate shot to foodie fame a few years ago, appearing on the likes of Master Chef and the menu at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. But other avant-garde chefs have long been fans of the food – including the acclaimed Franco Taruschio (founder of The Walnut Tree) who introduced the ingredient to foodies back in 1963 and whom Amanda Stradling has been supplying for the past eight years.

With Amanda now able to continuously grow and supply restaurants with the vegetable from April till October, there should be plenty of time for you to try it for yourself. The Mill Race pub in Walford, Herefordshire, has long been fond of Wye Valley Salads’ fresh produce, and has previously featured Amanda Stradling’s barba di frate on the menu. Hoping to reintroduce it to the menu again soon, keep an eye on the pub’s Facebook page for when it’s arrived.

For updates on new additions to The Mill Race pub’s menu, keep an eye on facebook.com/millrace

For updates from Amanda Stradling of Wye Valley Salads (awarded Producer of the Year, Observer Food Monthly Awards in 2015), keep an eye on twitter.com/UKBarbadifrate