These two root vegetables are closely
related to each other as well as to members of the same family as
dandelion and lettuce. All have long tapering roots. Salsify has a white
or pale brownish skin and scorzonera, sometimes called black salsify,
has a black skin. They both have a pale creamy flesh and a fairly
similar flavor reminiscent of artichokes and asparagus. Salsify is said
to have the superior flavor and has been likened to oysters (it is
sometimes referred to as the oyster plant), although many people fail to
detect this. Both salsify and scorzonera make an unusual and pleasant
accompaniment, either creamed or fried in butter. They can also be used
History : Salsify is native to the
Mediterranean but now grows in most areas of Europe and North America.
Scorzonera is a southern European plant. Both roots are classified as
herbs and, like many wild plants and herbs, their history is bound up
with their use in medicines. The roots, together with their leaves and
flowers, were used for the treatment of heartburn, loss of appetite and
various liver diseases.
Buying and Storing : Choose specimens
that are firm and smooth and, if possible, still with their tops on,
which should look fresh and lively. Salsify will keep for several days
stored in a cool dark place.
Preparing : Salsify and scorzonera
are difficult to clean and peel. Either scrub the root under cold
running water and then peel after cooking, or peel with a sharp
stainless steel knife. As the flesh discolors quickly, place the trimmed
pieces into acidulated water (water to which lemon juice has been
Cooking : Cut into short lengths and
simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well and saute in butter,
or serve with lemon juice, melted butter or chopped parsley.
Alternatively, they can be pureed for soups or mashed. Cooked and cooled
salsify and scorzonera can be served in a mustard or garlic vinaigrette
with a simple salad.