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Monday, November 29, 2010

What the heck is Salsify?

*Note from Glory* Okay, so my friend Mac tells me he just wrote a "riveting" article on salsify and in the next breath--or perhaps it was the same one, no way of knowing for certain-- he says he expects not to earn a single penny from it because no one will ever want to read it.

"It's about salsify, for cripe's sake. Even I ain't reading it!"he tells me.  Well, if you're like me, you're asking right now "What the heck is Salsify?"  And if you're also curious like me, you'll want to know what it is. Good thing we got Mac to tell us then, don't you think? And he thought we wouldn't be interested...silly man!
Salsify: The Oyster Plant by Mac Pike

Unsung garden delight: 

Visit any home garden in the neighborhood and your friends will happily point out their sturdy corn stalks, tomato plants thick with fruit, the colorful chard, the deep green pepper plants; even the zucchini comes in for a quick mention. But languishing in an unvisited and unmarked corner is the salsify. And that is if there is any salsify to be found at all.

And if there is not, that is really too bad. I mean, it isn’t like we are talking about parsnips here! Salsify is a tasty, easy to grow root crop with a unique taste and the ability to over winter. Every gardener should try it at least once, and the bet is that it will become a regular in the garden once the trial has been made. 
Is it vegetable or a mollusk? 

It is a vegetable of course but salsify, or more properly Tragopogon porrifolius is noted for its mild flavor which, if cooked in a certain way is considered oyster like. This accounts for the common nicknames, “vegetable oyster” and “oyster plant”. It is a root crop, similar in form to a carrot or parsnip. The roots may be white, black or cream colored depending on variety. 

Preparing the soil: 
Dig deep and remove rocks, add compost but do not add soil amendments other than a moderate amount of wood ashes. Salsify is a light feeder and growth is actually held back by nitrogen rich amendments. PH should be as close to a neutral 7.0 as possible for optimal root development. 

Salsify roots can be grown quite well if plants are centered 4 inches from one another, in staggered rows. It is a long term crop, requiring 120 days to full maturity so planting zones must definitely be taken into account when planting salsify. In the far north, where short growing seasons are the norm seeds should be planted two weeks before the last frost. In the southern zones seeds should be planted in June for a fall and over wintering crop. Intermediate zones signal an early spring planting time, much like turnips. 
Salsify seeds should be planted 1” deep and can be expected to emerge in about 14 days. Control weeds from the outset to allow the plants to establish. Once established the plants will benefit from a mulch of sifted compost, which will also suppress weeds. Regular, light watering should be observed, salsify will send tap roots deep in search of water but bulk is enhanced when the soil is not allowed to fully dry at the surface. 


It takes salsify 120 days to fully mature but roots may be pulled and used whenever they obtain a reasonable size.

Salsify should have the greenery and the tap root removed, and the skin removed with a vegetable paring tool. Slices or chunks may be added to stews, soups and chowders for a delightful change of pace taste...........     read more.

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