What Is Salsify?

Explains what salsify is and where it is grown. Also details uses for this plant whose root tastes like an oyster when cooked.

Salsify (tragopogon porrifolius) is a vegetable whose root and leaves can be used for cooking purposes. It is also known as white salsify, goatsbeard, vegetable oyster, and the oyster plant. The latter two names reflect the root's taste, which when cooked, resembles an oyster. Salsify is a member of the sunflower family and its varieties are named French Blue Flowered and the 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. Its root is similar in appearance to a thin parsnip. Additionally, it is long in length and is cream or white in color. 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.

You can purchase fresh salsify in many supermarkets and specialty stores during the winter months. You can also buy canned salsify year-round. However, canned salsify is not always an easy item to locate. When purchasing fresh salsify, you will find roots that are approximately 8-12 inches long and one inch in diameter. Select only those roots that are firm to the touch and that are well developed. Once purchased, you can safely store the fresh salsify in your home for up to one week as long as the roots are wrapped in plastic and placed in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use the salsify, cut-off its root ending then use a peeler to remove its outer skin and coating. To avoid discoloration of the root prior to its use, take the newly peeled salsify and drop it into a solution of water and lemon juice.

Common uses for salsify in cooking include cutting the root into 1/2-inch cubes and adding it to stews and soups. The root can also be microwaved, boiled, steamed, creamed, or mashed. A popular recipe suggests cooking the salsify root then mashing it and forming the mashed salsify into patties that are then fried. Because salsify root has an unusual taste, you may want to experiment with using it in recipes. While it is known for its oyster-like flavor, many people have also claimed it tastes similar to an artichoke. When cooked it also has the texture of an artichoke heart.



Using salsify as a cooking ingredient is also a wise and healthy decision because it is a highly nutritious root vegetable. A 2/3-cup of salsify, which is approximately 90 grams, contains only 60 calories. Additionally, salsify contains no cholesterol or fat and is low in sodium. It also provides an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Salsify is a diverse and healthy plant that can be used in a variety of ways. Because of this, it will continue to be used in the kitchens of many international chefs.

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