Salsify and black salsify probably come from southern Europe. The Greeks and Romans used it medicinally.
For a long time, they grew in the wild and do not seem to have been cultivated until the 15th century, probably in Italy, where the salsefica made its appearance: this name comes from selsequium, i.e. sol, sun, and sequems, follow, because the salsify flower follows the sun during the day.
As for black salsify – scorzonera – it appears to have been used as an antidote for snake bites, which explains the Italian name scorzonera, from scorzone, venomous snake.
In his Théâtre de l'agriculture et mesnage des champs, published in 1600, Olivier de Serres, the father of French agriculture, recommends cultivating it.
However, the cultivation of salsify was abandoned in favor of black salsify. Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Poland are the main producers in Europe, along with Chile and India.
The roots should be firm. The medium-size ones are less fibrous.
The leaves should be thick and heavy, without blemishes.
White salsify is not usually sold, but it is cultivated in private gardens.
Fresh black salsify is sold in bunches with its leaves.
However, it is primarily sold canned or frozen, peeled, and cut into pieces.
Peeling black salsify is not easy and the color rubs off on bare hands. Prior soaking for 1 hour in cold water makes it a little easier. But they can also, once they have been thoroughly washed, be cooked in their skin, which is then easily removed.
This vegetable darkens when exposed to air and so must be given a coating of acidulated water.
Salsify can be boiled, steamed, braised, or glazed. It should not be cooked for too long or it will fall apart.
It goes well with other vegetables in a soup or casserole, can be used to make a gratin, served with cream or sauce, or served cold with a simple vinaigrette and herbs. It goes well with poultry, white meats, and game.
The small leaves, when very fresh, are a welcome addition to a salad.
Fresh salsify can be kept in the refrigerator or cold room at 4°C for 2–3 days, wrapped or in its original crate.
Frozen, it should go straight in the freezer without breaking the cold chain.
Salsify contains a small amount of protein, carbohydrates, but not in large quantities, and no fat. It is a source of minerals and B vitamins.
Most of its carbohydrate is made up of inulin, which gives it its slightly sweet flavor. However, we do not have the necessary enzyme to digest this carbohydrate and so it ferments in the digestive tract, which is why many people have difficulties digesting this vegetable.
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