Okay, if I hadn’t just given it away in the headline, would you know what this flower is?
Along with okra, salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) goes under the category of Prettier Flowers Than You Thought Vegetables Had. This particular one also fits into the Biennials Pretending To Be Annuals group – it was not actually supposed to bloom until next spring. Well, it has been a strange year.
What is salsify, you ask? It’s a member of the family Asteraceae, native to Europe but growing wild along with its “goatsbeard” cousins all over North America. It used to be a common resident of the vegetable garden – often called “oyster plant” for the faint resemblance in flavor – but is not often grown these days. So of course I thought I’d try!
Both salsify and its relative scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica, sometimes called black or Spanish salsify) are easy to grow, though they do require a deep loose soil and a long season to grow in (seed sown early in spring; harvest in fall into winter). I dug some of the plants at the demo garden today, and left some to wait for an early spring harvest (or perhaps bloom).
You eat the roots (although the greens are also edible – I can’t say I’m taken with chewing on them raw, but perhaps they’d be better cooked). Here’s a salsify root, about the size of a big carrot:
Under that dirt the root is whitish – it needs to be peeled before eating. Scorzonera has black skin and a white interior:
There are lots of recipes around for salsify if you search online (and you can use scorzonera in any of them as well). Since I still have Jerusalem artichokes to use up, I made this recipe for Braised Salsify and Jerusalem Artichokes from the Washington Post. It was very tasty!
It’s a good idea to put both the salsify and the sunchokes into water with some lemon juice added as you cut them. This keeps them from discoloring.
You may be able to find salsify or scorzonera now at farmer’s markets or adventurous grocery stores, so look around!