They say you learn something every day. Today I learnt what Salsify is!
Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) is a common biennial wildflower, native to Mediterranean regions of Europe but introduced elsewhere, for example, into Great Britain, (mainly in the south) and northern Europe, North America, in southern Africa and in Australia; in the United States it is now found growing wild in almost every state, including Hawaii, except in the extreme south-east.
This is a plant with a root that can be eaten. Salsify looks like a giant dandelion, and in a similar fashion the purple flower (some species have a bright yellow flower) turns into a dainty, but LARGE, puffball, dispersing hundreds of seeds into the wind. Salsify is also known as Goat's Beard or Vegetable Oyster as their mild and sweet flavor is often compared to that of oysters. Some say they have a slight asparagus or artichoke taste, with an aftertaste of coconut. The leaves of the salsify plant are edible; this root vegetable is not often seen in supermarkets in South Africa, but is as easy to grow as carrots or parsnips.
• Easy to grow. Sow in garden. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C.
• Space plants: 15 - 20 cm apart
• Harvest in 14-21 weeks.
• Compatible with: Beans, Brassicas, Carrots, Celeriac, Endive, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Alliums, Spinach
It is a fairly slow-growing vegetable but can be harvested in small amounts as required. The ground can be loosened with a fork and a few roots lifted for use.
The plant grows to around 120cm in height. As with other Tragopogon species, its stem is largely un-branched, and the leaves are somewhat grass-like. It exudes a milky juice from the stems.
When buying, choose firm, medium-sized salsify, with no damp parts.
Both varieties of salsify oxidize when peeled or cut. Immerse them in water mixed with a little lemon juice or vinegar or boil them whole for 15 min before peeling and preparing. Their skin can temporarily stain hands when peeling.
Serving Ideas :
Salsify and black salsify are delicious in soups and stews or in a gratin, with béchamel or cheese sauce. They can be eaten cold, dressed with a vinaigrette. Salsify goes well with potato, leek, celery, onion and spinach. They are delicious braised with veal, poultry or fish; they can be glazed in the same way as carrots.
Both varieties of salsify are best used fresh. In the fridge: several days, unwashed in a loosely closed or perforated plastic bag.
(Image from Good Food) I wasn't going to up-root mine to see what the roots look like!
Cook briefly so that the flesh does not become mushy.
Steamed: 10-15 min (recommended cooking method).
Boiled: 8-12 min.
Salsify is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid and phosphorus. It also contains inulin (a carbohydrate close to starch), which is suitable for diabetics to eat, as it does not affect blood sugar levels. Salsify is blood thinning and has a decongestant effect on the liver and kidneys.
Very often mistaken for grass or some obnoxious weed, Salsify is easy to miss. So keep an eye open when weeding, you might be getting rid of your next meal!