Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, from the Latin tragos - goat & pogon - beard. Those kooky botanists) is another slow-growing vegetable. I know, I'm torturing you folks with small gardens! The name comes from the old Latin name solsequium, from the way the flowers follow the course of the sun each day (likes daisies, which isn't that surprising as they are part of the same family, Asteraceae*). It's also known as Goat's Beard or Vegetable Oyster, as the root is said to have a delicate, oyster-like flavour (having never eaten oysters, I can't say if this is true). It was a wild harvested food in France & Germany in the 13th century, and wasn't cultivated until later. Today it's still an unusual crop, which is a shame as it's a low maintenance veg, with no real pests or diseases and can be grown near carrots & parsnips to discourage carrot root fly (being related to tagetes and all).

Like parsnips, it's prone to forking on recently manured, heavy or stony soils. Digging over in the autumn & adding some organic matter or sharp sand will help. The seed looks like chopped up pieces of straw (and will blow away in the wind!), but you've not been conned, they are seeds!
Sow 10cm (4") apart with 30cm (12") between rows (get used to those spacings, pretty much everything I grow is in 30cm rows - onions, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, turnips...). Keep weed free (by hand, as the roots are easily damaged) & water in dry spells. They can be harvested from August onwards, or left in the ground overwinter to produce edible shoots (known as 'chards') in the spring. I tend to dig up a few in the autumn, and if the roots are small, leave them in the ground with a covering of mulch to protect them from frost, then in the spring when new growth appears, a covering of straw or an upturned bucket can be used for 'blanching' the stems to make them sweeter & tender (much like when forcing rhubarb) & harvest when 10-15cm long.

Salsify roots have a mild, sweet flavour, with a hint of the seaweed to it. They discolour when cut, so need a splash of lemon juice (which is lucky, as they go really well together). They are delicious sauteed in butter with garlic, in a gratin, roasted with lemon wedges or grated raw into salads. The chards can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.
The flowerbuds are also edible, and can be picked just before they open with a fingers length of stem & treated like asparagus (steam & serve with a squeeze of lemon juice & a scrape of butter, or bake into a quiche).
Here's a favourite recipe of mine, it's a simple fritter that really gives the salsify flavour a chance to shine (rather than get smothered in cheese)

Salsify Fritters
250g-300g Salsify roots, scrubbed (you can peel them if you prefer)
1 clove garlic, minced (I use a fine grater)
1 egg, beaten
1-2tbs flour
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt & pepper
a little butter or oil

Coarsely grate the salsify into a bowl & add the lemon juice. Give it a shake around. Add the remaining ingredients & mix well. Heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat, and spoon out the batter to make 6 or 7 fritters. Flip when golden & firm, and cook the other side until done too. Serve with a salad or hot straight from the pan while no ones looking.

*the Aster family, which includes sunflowers, chamomile, artichokes, marigold, echinacea, chrysanthemums & dahlias. And the sight of one never fails to make me smile.


MorningAJ said...

Did you need a dog to dig those up for you? ;)

It's not one of my favourite vegetables. Give me parsnips any day!

mangocheeks said...

Salsify is a vegetable I have yet to try. I've never seen it being sold at the supermarket or farmers market, the only way to get my mitts on some is to grow some and you know that will be a while - so yeph you are teasing those of us with tiny growing space.

I was interested in seeing the seeds. Interesting, I did not realise they were so long.

PS fritters can't go wrong with fritters.

littleblackfox said...

Nah, no dog, just a little fox! I do prefer parsnips, but I do enjoy a change now & then.

Hehe, Mangocheeks I'm such a tease!
I don't know how well they store out of the ground, but if they can survive a few days wrapped in damp newspaper I'm happy to post you some!
I've been loving reading about your seaside jaunts, it sounds like you've been having a lovely time!

spécialiste de l'éphémère said...

What a wonderful idea!