Salsify looks somewhat like a thin, narrow parsnip, in that it is carrot-shaped with white skin. The flavour of salsify, though, is more delicate, and the flesh is waxier.
A salsify is on average 20 to 30 cm long (8 to 12 inches) and about 6 cm wide (2 ½ inches). It takes about 120 – 150 days to grow from seed, depending on where you are. The tops, or leaves, look like grass. In Italy, these very young greens are used in salads.
When being harvested, salsify need to be dug out rather than pulled out, because it will break.
They are usually sold in bunches with their leaves on. Choose firm, medium-sized ones (larger ones may be woody.)
In North America, salsify is not really available commercially yet; the trail is still being blazed by home gardeners.
The plant called “common salsify” is completely different: it is a weed that produces puffballs like dandelions do.
See also: Black salsify
Allow about 1 kg (about 2 lbs) for 6 people.
Scrub, top and tail. Peel, and put into acidulated water as soon as peeled (the flesh blackens very quickly otherwise.)
Cut into 5 cm long (2 inch) pieces if desired.
Roast, or boil.
If boiling, boil for 25 to 30 minutes — to whatever point at which they are just tender. They will go mushy beyond that point.
If you find it fiddly to peel them, you can cook then peel. If you go this route, reheat after cooking and peeling either in a steamer or microwave.
The young leaves can be used as salad greens.
For the French method of cooking salsify white, see the entry for “au blanc.”
The juice of salsify can irritate some people’s skin while they are cutting the vegetables.
1 pound / 500 g = 5 to 6 Salsify
Remove green tops. Store in plastic bag in fridge for up to 2 weeks. If it sprouts, just break the sprouts off and discard the sprouts.
Some people think that salsify has a taste somewhat between asparagus and oysters: thus some of its other names referring to oysters.