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April 27, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Discover: Salsify

Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) aka Purple Goat’s Beard, Vegetable Oyster, or (French) Salsifis des prés, is a biennial plant with long fleshy cylindrical roots eaten as vegetable. 
Salsify is a corruption of the old Latin name solsequium. This was derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sequens (following), meaning the flower that followed the course of the sun.
Salsify is a an uncommon vegetable in allotmets and home gardens, and even more uncommon in the supermarket. Salsify, however, is a super vegetable for nutrition and health. It is rich in potassium and high in Vitamin C; in a one cup serving there are only 92 calories, no fat. Salsify is high in dietary fibre.
Salsify, a somewhat forgotten root vegetable, is native to central and southern Europe, a member of the sunflower family. Salsify, often called the oyster plant for it’s mild oyster-like flavor, is a cool weather crop, which requires a long growing season, between 120 and 150 days.
It is a tall plant, the stem being nearly 3 feet high. The flowers are of a delicate pale purple colour. Though not a British species, it is occasionally found in moist meadows, having been originally a garden escape. 
It was formerly much cultivated for the sake of its fleshy, tapering roots, and also for young shoots (chards) which can be cooked like asparagus, but in addition the brown seedlings will eventually grow into long, slender, clumps of grass like green leaves that are also edible and can be added to mixed salads. The tan colored roots can reach eight to twelve inches in length and about an inch in diameter.
In the garden, Salsify is a very easy and trouble free crop to grow and matures in a year. Salsify, the oyster vegetable, is well worth the added time in the garden and the kitchen. It can be baked, broiled, steamed, fried; used in soups and stews. Salsify can be used to make gourmet mock oysters. Salsify is an old-time vegetable, more popular in another era, but one which should be included in the back yard garden for it’s flavor and nutrition.


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