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How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Salsify and Scorzonera

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Salsify and scorzonera are cool-weather root crops. Salsify and scorzonera, are sometimes confused. The roots look very similar; salsify has a whitish root; scorzonera has a black root. The roots and leaves of salsify and scorzonera are edible.

  • 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 an oyster and is often referred to as a “vegetable oyster” or “oyster plant.” The botanical name of salsify is Tragopogon porrifolius.
  • Scorzonera is a black-skinned root vegetable with white flesh that resembles salsify. Scorzonera is sometimes called black salsify or Spanish salsify.  The botanical name of Scorzonera is Scorzonera hispanica.

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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.

Salsify plant

Plant salsify and scorzonera (black salsify) directly in the garden 2 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring or as soon as the soil is workable. The soil temperature must be at least 40°F (4°C) for germination.

White salsify roots sauteed or steamed have a delicate flavor similar to that of oysters. (Salsify is often called “oyster plant”.) Scorzonera is commonly called black salsify; it is black-skinned and white-fleshed and has a flavor considered to be superior to that of salsify.

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Salsify and scorzonera grow best when temperatures are between 55° and 75°F (13-24°C). Both are long-season crops that need at least 100 days to mature.

In short-growing season regions, the yield may be good, but smaller. Where summer weather is very warm, the texture and flavor will not be as good.

Salsify and scorzonera are best planted in humus-rich, well-drained soil. Loosen the soil to a depth of 10 inches and remove any stones or clods, which will cause misshapen roots. Avoid using fresh manure which can cause roots to fork.

Salsify and scorzonera roots can be dug as soon as they are useable size. The best flavor occurs when freezing weather touches the crop before harvest.

Here is your complete guide to growing salsify and scorzonera.

Salsify and scorzonera quick-growing tips

  • Sow salsify and scorzonera 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 and scorzonera in early autumn for a winter harvest.
  • Salsify and scorzonera require 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and are best when they come to maturity in cool weather.
Salsify roots
Salsify root

Salsify and scorzonera planting details

  • Sowing depth: ¼ inch (.6 cm)
  • Space between plants: 2-6 inches
  • Days to sprout: 7-20
  • Days to harvest: 120 or as soon as it reaches a useable size
  • Storage period: 8-16 weeks
  • Seed for 100-row feet: ½ ounce
  • Yield per 100-row feet: 90 pounds
  • Suggested varieties: Salsify: Long Black, Mammoth Sandwich Island; Scorzonera: Enorma

Where to plant salsify and scorzonera

  • Plant salsify and scorzonera in full sun.
  • Sow seeds in soil rich in organic matter that is 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.

When to plant salsify and scorzonera

  • Salsify and scorzonera are hardy cool-weather root crops.
  • Sow salsify and scorzonera 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 and scorzonera require 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and are best when it comes to maturity in cool weather.
  • Salsify and scorzonera 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.

Salsify and scorzonera planting dates

(These dates are for the Northern Hemisphere)

Average date of the last frostPlanting dates
Jan. 30Jan. 1-Feb. 1
Feb. 8Jan. 10-Feb. 10
Feb. 18Jan. 15-Feb. 20
Feb. 28Jan. 15-Mar. 1
Mar. 10Feb. 1-Mar. 1
Mar. 20Feb. 15-Mar. 1
Mar. 30Mar. 1-15
Apr. 10Mar. 10-Apr. 15
Apr. 20Mar. 20-May 1
Apr. 30Apr. 1-May 15
May 10Apr. 15-June 1
May 20May 1-June 1
May 30May 10-June 1
June 10May 20-June 1
Scorzonera root

Planting and spacing salsify and scorzonera

  • Sow salsify seed ½ inch (12mm) deep and ½ inch apart.
  • Thin successful seedlings stand 3 to 4 inches (7-10cm) apart.
  • Space rows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.
  • Yield: plant 10 salsify or scorzonera plants per household member.

Salsify and scorzonera companion plants

  • Grow salsify and scorzonera with other root crops including carrots, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Container growing salsify and scorzonera

  • Salsify and scorzonera, like many long-rooted crops, are not a good choices for container growing unless the containers are 10 inches or deeper.

Water and feeding salsify and scorzonera

  • Keep salsify and scorzonera planting bed evenly moist to prevent the roots from getting stringy.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting.
  • Side dress salsify and scorzonera with compost at midseason.
  • Manure or too much nitrogen added to the soil before sowing can cause roots to fork and split.

Salsify and scorzonera care and maintenance

  • 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.

Salsify and scorzonera pests and diseases

  • Salsify and Scorzonera have no serious pest or disease problems.

Harvesting salsify and scorzonera

  • Salsify and scorzonera roots 12 inches (30cm) long or longer are ready for harvest.
  • Lift roots whole by hand or with a spading fork being careful not to break roots.
  • Roots require 120 to 150 days to reach harvest.

Storing salsify and scorzonera

  • Salsify and scorzonera 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 and scorzonera

  • 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 and scorzonera varieties to grow

  • Varieties. ‘Giant Russian’, ‘Sandwich Island Mammoth’, ‘Scorzonera’.

About salsify and 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

Related articles:

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Salsify and Scozonera

Five Ways to Cook and Service Salsify

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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