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Name Variations

  • goatsbeard
  • oyster plant
  • vegetable oyster

About Salsify

Salsify is called vegetable oyster because of its faint oyster-like flavor. This name is used interchangeably to describe two roots. White salsify is pale, thin, forked, has rootlets at the bottom, while black salsify (scorzonera) looks like a brown carrot and is much smoother and longer looking. Popular in Europe since the 16th century, this root has just begun to make its appearance in markets.

The Goatsbeards or Salsifies are the genus Tragopogon of flowering plants within the family Asteraceae. They include the vegetable called salsify as well as a number of common wild flowers, some of which are usually regarded as weeds.

Goatsbeards are forbs growing as biennial or perennial plants. They have a strong taproot and milky sap. They generally have few branches, and those there are tend to be upright. Their leaves are somewhat grass-like. Flower colour varies within the genus, with some yellow species, and some bronze or purple. Seeds are borne in a globe like that of a dandelion but larger, and are dispersed by the wind.

The goatsbeards are natives of Europe and Asia, but several species have been introduced into North America and Australia and have spread widely there.

Some of the commoner species of Tragopogon are known, in the regions where they are commonest, by the common names "goat's beard", "goatsbeard", "salsify" or "common salsify", without further qualification. These names are therefore inherently ambiguous, and best avoided, or reserved for the genus collectively. In the species list below, the first common name given is the one that seems to be most widely used for that species and is not in significant use for any other species.

The vegetable called salsify is usually the root of Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius; the root is described as having the taste of oysters (hence the alternative common name "Oyster Plant" for some species in this genus). The young shoots of Purple Salsify can also be eaten. Other species, for example Spanish Salsify, Scorzonera hispanica, are also used in the same way.

Availability, Selection, Storage, and Preparation

This root is available from fall to early spring. Select medium size roots that are smooth and firm. Larger roots are more fibrous and smaller roots have less meat. White salsify is sold in bunches with leaves still attached. Black salsify is usually sold without leaves and in plastic bags. Salsify will last 2 weeks wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator. Prepare salsify by scrubbing with a brush, removing the skin, rootlets, and all dark spots. Trim the tops and bottoms and slice as you would a carrot or leave whole. Avoid overcooking this root as it will quickly turn into mush.

Salsify Recipes


See also