Black Salsify: Facts, Description, & Cooking Methods

Black Salsify: Facts, Description, & Cooking Methods

Root vegetables are what black salsify is. From a single seed, a long, thin root with green, pointed leaves can grow—often reaching lengths of more than one foot. On the outside it is pitch black, yet on the inside it is milky white. You peel it before cooking it. Since the root can often exude a lot of sticky sap when it is peeled, some people do not appreciate using salsify in their cuisine. I have discovered that the black salsify roots sold in grocery stores produce a far greater amount of sap than the roots I grow at home.

Although it was first domesticated in Italy and France, white salsify is a natural plant of the eastern Mediterranean region. After then, it was taken to North America, where, in the 18th century, it gained a lot of popularity. Although it was first grown in Spain, black salsify is native to a wider range that includes both Europe and Asia. 

Many of the earlier European cultivars are no longer farmed in modern times; nevertheless, the seeds for these plants can be acquired and produced by gardeners in their own homes. The salsify that is grown is of a rather uncommon variety and can be purchased in the United States of America, Asia, and Europe at specialty grocery stores and farmer's markets.

Black Salsify Facts

Both the root and the greens of the salsify plant were traditionally grown by humans. Salsify is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes dandelion and daisy. Salsify is the common name given to two distinct plants, both of which can reach a height of one hundred cm or more.

Scientifically referred to as Scorzonera hispanica, Black Salsify is also known as Spanish Salsify, Black Oyster, Serpent root,  and Viper's grass. Its scientific classification is "Black Salsify." The lilac blooms that appear on White Salsify in the spring are responsible for the plant's other common names, including Billy Goat's Beard, Oyster plant, Jerusalem star, and Purple Salsify.

White Salsify is scientifically recognized as the species Tragopogon porrifolius. Salsify has been utilized in European cultures from the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. In Victorian England, it gained popularity in the kitchen during the lean winter months due to its adaptability and versatility in a variety of culinary applications.

It has been virtually forgotten in modern times as a result of shifting consumer preferences, but there has been a renaissance in efforts by specialized grocers and amateur gardeners to reintroduce the root back into popular cooking.

Description and Flavor

The salsify root can range in size from being quite small to quite medium in size, and it has the shape of a parsnip in that it is long and slender before coming to a point at the opposite end of the stem. There are two distinct plants that are both referred to as salsify.

The White Salsify is longer and hairier, and its skin ranges in color from brown to tan. In contrast, the Black Salsify has skin that is dark brown to nearly black, and its shape is more uniform, and it has only a few hairs or side roots. Both have cream-colored flesh that is solid and firm underneath the thick skin that covers them.

In spite of the fact that the Black Salsify has a somewhat smoother consistency than the White Salsify because it has less fibrous components, the flavor of both varieties of salsify is extremely subtle and unobtrusive, with notes of licorice, umami, and artichoke.

Black Salsify Cooking Methods

Cooking methods include sautéing, boiling, roasting, steaming, frying, and baking are the most effective ways to prepare salsify. Before beginning the cooking process, the skin must be peeled, and in order to maintain the bright white color of the meat, the root must be soaked in water containing either lemon juice or vinegar.

Both types of salsify are often prepared by steaming, then being pureed before being used as a thickening in soups or stews, or being served as a puree alongside chicken or other meat. With addition, they are frequently sautéed in butter, which results in a side dish that is opulent and velvety.

Salsify is a highly adaptable vegetable that may be sliced and used to make gluten-free pasta, grated and roasted to make cakes, coated in a batter made of egg and flour and fried, or sliced into coins and used in gratins.

Younger salsify can also be eaten uncooked, sliced thinly in salads, or diced finely to provide texture to a meal. These methods are all similar to how salsify is used in cooking. The greens of the salsify plant are also edible and can be prepared similarly to other vegetables by sautéing them.

Salsify goes well with several types of meat including deer, beef, chicken, and fish, as well as garlic, onion, celery, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and butter. It also goes well with white wine, lemon, and butter. When kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to seven days, salsify will maintain its freshness.