Margaret Lauterbach

Agretti: Popular Italian green is hard to grow there, easy here


Statesman gardening columnist Margaret Lauterbach is taking some time off. She’ll be writing again in January. But she’s checking her email, so if you have questions, email her at Meantime, we’re repeating some of her most popular advice.

We’ve heard about the rush of Italians to buy Agretti when it comes to market in spring, but it’s easy to grow here, and edible in late spring and early summer as well. It seeds itself and is even growing as volunteers on a berm of compost near my garden.

Agretti is a nonleafy green, also called Saltwort or Roscano, a little salty, and said to grow in Italy in two special places near saltwater. Since it thrives in our alkaline soil, its apparent scarcity in Italy must mean Italian soil is too acidic to grow it in home gardens. Asians use similar vegetables, all of them species of Salsola. The off-putting relationship is that it’s related to Russian thistle (tumbleweed), which is edible when young.

Eggplant: early or standard?

Last year, I grew early eggplant, but it fruited much earlier than I was ready for, so this year I went back to standard eggplant varieties. I used to love scalloped eggplant casseroles, but now I can’t eat the crushed top of wheat saltines. I now grow eggplant mainly for ratatouille and eggplant Parmesan.