Know your Salsify

  • The vegetable called salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius), purple salsify, oyster plant or goatsbeard, is a flowering plant in the sunflower family Asteraceae which has over 140 species, which includes a number of common wild flowers, some of which are usually regarded as weeds.
  • As it is a biennial, salsify flowers and goes to seed in the second year.
  • The cream or white vegetable root, similar in appearance to a thin parsnip,  is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name "oyster plant"), but more insipid with a touch of sweetness. 
  • From the top of the salsify, green, grass-like shoots emerge. These leaves are edible and can be used in salads, for example. 
  • Salsify is a hearty plant that requires approximately 150 days to grow. However, it can be left in the ground during the winter months and will still flourish. 
  • When cultivated for a few years, salsify will also produce stalks that bear purple flowers.
  • Salsify has two culinary varieties which are named Salsify 'French Blue Flowered' and the Salsify 'Mammoth Sandwich Island'. 
  • It is cultivated in Central and Southern Europe, the United States, and in Asia (Taiwan), and is said to have originated in the Mediterranean. 
  • Other species are also used for culinary purposes in the same way, including the black or Spanish salsify, Scorzonera hispanica, which is closely related though not a member of the genus Tragopogon.