Salsify, a humble and rather uncommon root vegetable, makes its way onto many of our winter menus. But don’t be fooled by this rather plain looking winter veggie, its flavor is truly delicious when cooked properly.
There are two types of salsify from different origins. White salsify was first cultivated during the 16th century in Italy and France. Brought to the United States in the 18th century it was quickly nicknamed the “oyster plant,” although its flavor tastes nothing like oysters. Black salsify is native to Asia and wider Europe and was first cultivated in Spain in the 17th century. Both types resemble a slim parsnip and have a cream white flesh, although the skins vary in color hence their names.
A part of the daisy family, salsify is related to lettuce, artichokes, sunflowers, and many ornamental flowers. The salsify root itself may not be glamorous, but beautiful edible, bright purple and yellow flowers grow from its greens. You may even find salsify growing wild, as it has spread throughout most of the United States. Planted in spring then harvested in late fall to early winter, the first winter frost helps bring out the unique flavor of salsify, which tastes somewhat like an artichoke heart. This unique flavor pairs well with dairy and strong herbs. Salsify is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; inner beauty is what matters most.