Salsify is a cool-weather root crop. It is grown for its roots. The leaves are also edible.
Sow salsify as early as 2 weeks before the last expected frost in spring when the soil temperature has reached about 40°F (4.4°C). In mild winter regions, sow salsify in early autumn for a winter harvest. Salsify requires 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and is best when it comes to maturity in cool weather.
Scorzonera, also a root crop, is sometimes confused with salsify. The roots look very similar; salsify has a whitish root; scorzonera has a black root. The roots and leaves of scorzonera are edible like salsify.
Salsify. Salsify is a hardy biennial vegetable grown as an annual. Salsify is grown for its long, tapered, carrot-like off-white root (with white interior) which is tender when harvested young. Salsify tastes a bit like oyster and is often referred to as “vegetable oyster” or “oyster plant.” The botanical name of salsify is Tragopogon porrifolius.
Scorzonera. A black rooted vegetable (with white interior) that resembles salsify is scorzonera. Scorzonera is sometimes called black salsify or Spanish salsify. The botanical name of scorzonera is Scorzonera hispanica.
Scorzonera and salsify are members of the dandelion tribe of the daisy family and the two are just about as easy to grow as dandelions. Salsify has almost grass-like leaves. Scorzonera has broad lily-of-the-valley-like leaves, The growing requirements of salsify and scorzonera are the same.
Yield. Plant 10 salsify plants per household member.
Site. Plant salsify in full sun. Sow salsify in soil rich in organic matter well-worked to the depth of 8 to 12 inches (20-30cm). Remove all stones and soil lumps from planting beds; obstacles in the soil can cause roots to fork and split. Salsify prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
Planting time. Salsify is a hardy cool-weather root crop. Sow salsify 2 weeks before the last expected frost in spring when the soil temperature has reached about 40°F (4.4°C). In mild winter regions, sow salsify in early autumn for a winter harvest. Salsify requires 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and is best when it comes to maturity in cool weather. Salsify can be harvested after the first freeze in autumn. Do not allow salsify to sit in the garden after temperatures rise above 85°F (29°C); roots will become stringy and fibrous.
Planting and spacing. Sow salsify seed ½ inch (12mm) deep and ½ inch apart. Thin successful seedlings to stand 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.
Companion plants. Carrots, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, sweet potatoes.
Container growing. Salsify, like many long-rooted crops, is not a good choice for container growing.
Caring for Salsify
Water and feeding. Keep salsify evenly moist to prevent the roots from getting stringy. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Side dress salsify with compost at midseason. Manure or too much nitrogen added to the soil before sowing can cause roots to fork and split.
Care. Keep planting beds weed-free. Mulch planting beds with 1 to 2 feet (30-61cm) of straw if the harvest is planned after the onset of freezing weather.
Pests. Salsify has no serious pest problems.
Diseases. Salsify has no serious disease problems.
Harvesting and Storing Salsify
Harvest. Salsify roots 12 inches (30cm) long or longer are ready for harvest. Lift salsify whole by hand or with a spading fork being careful not to break roots. Roots require 120 to 150 days to reach harvest. Salsify can withstand freezing so leave roots in the ground until you want them. The longer salsify is in the ground the less it tastes like oysters.
Storing and preserving. Salsify will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. Remove the tops before refrigerating. Roots can be kept in a cold, moist place for 2 to 4 months.
Salsify Varieties to Grow
Varieties. ‘Giant Russian’, ‘Sandwich Island Mammoth’, ‘Scorzonera’.
Salsify common name. Salsify, oyster plant
Salsify botanical name. Tragopogon porrifolius
Scorzonera common name: Black salsify, Spanish salsify
Scorzonera botanical name: Scorzonera hispanica
Origin. Southern Europe