Black salsify, delicious heirloom root

Black salsify

Growing black salsify starts in May whereas the harvest takes place from fall to winter.

Black salsify basic facts

Name – Scorzonera hispanica
Family – Asteraceae
Type – vegetable

 – 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – deep, rather light, rich & well drained

Sowing: end of winter, early spring      –      Harvest: from mid-fall to early spring

Whether you start from seed or plant young plants directly, you’ll see that it’s quite easy to grow superb black salsify roots.

Sowing and planting black salsify

Black salsify can be grown from seed or by planting young sprouts.

Sowing black salsify

This method of growing black salsify can be successfully followed by all, even beginners.

  • Sowing black salsifyStart at the end of winter, towards March and April, directly in the ground.
  • Dig a ¾ inch (2 cm) groove and space the next grooves 8 inches (20 cm) apart.
  • Cover the seeds with a layer of soil mix about ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2 cm) thick to make sprouting easier.
  • As soon as the first leaves have appeared, you must thin to about 12 inches (10 cm).

Planting black salsify

If you’ve purchased black salsify as young plants in pots, plan to transfer them to the ground in spring.

  • Keep a distance of about 8 inches (20 cm) from one plant to the next and 6 inches (15 cm) between lines to give it space to grow.
  • Exposure must be full sun.

Growing and caring for black salsify

Black salsify is a perennial or biennial that calls for minimal care, perhaps only regular watering in case of high temperatures.

  • Scorzonera hispanica careAs winter draws near, spread dried leaf mulch atop the plants in order to make pulling them out easier and protect them from the cold.
  • In spring, till the ground around them, weed, and then add compost around the stem.

Diseases and parasites that attack black salsify

Black salsify is a vegetable that is quite easy-growing and it fears only very few diseases.

Nonetheless, it may be that your plants attract slugs and caterpillars

Harvesting the black salsify

One can harvest black salsify from October to April, simply pulling the roots out.

  • Harvesting black salsifyBefore the plant goes to seed, cut flower stems.
  • The harvest is often more bountiful during the 2nd year, when larger black salsify roots are produced.
  • When pulling the roots out, proceed carefully so that you don’t damage them, they tend to be quite fragile.

Cooking with scorzonera

Scorzonera is another name for black salsify. It’s quite easy to cook and prepare, certainly no more difficult than potato or parsnip!

Black salsify - cookingYou can use it in all your recipes to replace potato: mashed, in stews, baked in the over…

In addition, it’s delicious when cut into thin strips and grilled, like on a barbecue.

Simply peel the skin off with a vegetable knife, as you would carrot.

All there is to know about black salsify

Difference is that black salsify has yellow flowersIts many varieties like ‘Russian black giant’ and ‘Spanish salsify’, the hispanica variety, must not lead you into thinking that black and white salsify are the same, even though they are quite similar.

It is often confused with salsify which is a different albeit related plant. Black salsify has a higher culinary value.

Black salsify can be identified thanks to its black root and yellow flowers, and white salsify roots are white with pink or blue flowers.

Black salsify has high levels of carbohydrates, allantoin and also vitamins E, B and C. This makes this root a very interesting vegetable as regards nutrition.

Smart tip about black salsify

It is recommended to amend the soil with compost before planting and to loosen up the soil well.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 4.0: Benreis, Agnieszka Kwiecień
CC BY-SA 3.0: Rasbak, Goldlocki
CC BY 2.0: Manuel Martin Vicente