Salsify is a root vegetable which is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. This plant has been cultivated and used in food for centuries. Now introduced into our part of the world it really is only available in specialty markets. I have not seen it in my local store. Maybe a larger chain would carry it. I am betting that Whole Foods Markets carry it.
Salsify is harvested in the fall and I've learned it can be grown in a home garden here in the states between zones 6 to 10. You can obtain the seeds from specialty garden companies.
The base of the root is the salsify. Young roots can be served raw in salads whereas older salsify roots need to be cooked to soften. They are added to soups and stews; can be scrubbed, peeled, cooked, then mashed. The salsify root has a slightly oyster like flavor and was given a common name of Oyster Plant along with it's other common name, Purple Goats Beard.
When picking out your salsify they say to select ones that feel heavy for their size and evenly textured with no soft spots or other discoloration. The common colors of salsify are white, golden or black.
The greens of the plants can also be steamed or quick roasted - much like you would roast asparagus spears. In fact in Belgium salsify is referred to as the poor man's asparagus.
As with okra you need a sharp, sharp knife to cut salsify and note that you still may have some sap-like juice that comes out of it. Simply wash them off with cool water and you are good to go.
If you are interested in growing salsify visit any reputable garden center in your area to get some understanding of how to plant, feed and care for the plants. Also as you know there's a wealth of information on the web. From the little I read the seedling take at least 3 weeks to germinate and when they begin to grow they look like little twigs; so be careful not to pull them up. Salsify can take around 120 days to mature until harvest.
Here's a recipe I found on the web from a chef who served under the famous chef Gordon Ramsey. However truffle oil which is added at the end of the dish is not cooking on a budget - maybe a drizzle of good olive oil instead? I also took some liberties and added instructions where they left them out. Judging by the picture, the soup is pureed with a hand held blender or in a blender or food processor.
- 8 salsify
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 750ml chicken stock = a little over 3 cups
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 leek washed and sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic - smashed and minced
- A dash of cream - about 1-2 tbsp.
- A dash of lemon juice
- Chives - for garnish
- Some grated cheese (mimolette cheese was used, but a good substitute is a decent Red Leicester or medium cheddar)
- Truffle oil
- Peel and chop the salsify into 1 inch pieces. Add to a saucepan with the stock, thyme and bay leaf and boil until the salsify has a little bite to it, around 10 minutes.
- Remove the salsify with a slotted spoon and set the stock aside.
- Gently fry the the onion, leek, garlic and salsify in butter until golden, then add most of the chicken stock, cream and lemon juice and blend together. Add more stock until the desired consistency.
- Drizzle with truffle oil and a sprinkle of black pepper and a shaving or two of cheese. Finish with a pinch of fresh chives and croutons if you like.
If preparing in advance, submerge peeled and chopped salsify in cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice, to stop it from turning brown.