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Salsify, a delicate subtle taste


Growing salsify starts in late spring and the harvest is in fall and winter.

Summary of Salsify facts

Name – Tragopogon porrifolius
Common name – purple salsify
Family – Asteraceae
Type – vegetable

 – 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm)
Exposure – full sun

Soil: light, rich and well drained  –  Harvest: fall → early spring

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

Sowing and planting salsify

Salsify can be grown from seed or by planting young plantlets. In both cases, check that you’ve got deep, rich and well drained soil which you can obtain if you add fertilizer or compost.

If the soil you’ve got is heavy, you’ll have to lighten it with sand while avoiding stones.

Sowing salsify

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

  • Start 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 to 12 inches (20 to 30 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 salsify

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

  • Dig to a depth of 8 inches (20 cm) and add fertilizer because salsify is a demanding plant.
  • Loosen up the soil well.
  • Keep a distance of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) from one plant to the next and 6 inches (15 cm) between rows to give it space to grow.
  • Exposure must be full sun.

Growing and caring for salsify

Salsify careSalsify is a biennial that calls for minimal care, perhaps only regular watering in case of high temperatures.

  • As 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.

To grow larger salsify, feel free to remove floral scapes as soon as they appear. It you let them grow, then root growth will slow down.

  • Diseases and parasites that attack salsify

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

Nonetheless, it may be that your plants appeal to slugs and caterpillars

Harvesting and keeping salsify

Salsify stems resist freezing and can be harvested in fall, winter, and even up to spring.

Salsify harvest on the market stall for saleRemember to wear gloves when harvesting because salsify will stain your hands.

Salsify is a biennial plant that would normally bloom in spring if it weren’t usually harvested during winter in the 2nd year of growing.

One can harvest salsify from October to April, simply pulling the roots out as needs arise.

  • Before the plant goes to seed, cut the floral scape.

How to keep salsify

Once you’ve harvested it, cut the salsify leaves off keep the roots in the dark.

  • The cut salsify will do great in a cool place like a cellar.
  • If need be, you can protect it with sand in crates.
  • Salsify will keep for a few days in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator.

Learn more about salsify

Whatever the variety – ‘Blanc amélioré’, ‘Large-rooted mammoth’ or ‘Russian giant white’, salsify is a vegetable with a delicate and subtle taste that is somewhat close to artichoke.

Salsify is appreciated for its slight taste of almonds. Its flowers boast a fragrance close to the smell of chocolate.

Salsify hosts great nutritional benefits, among which relatively low calorie intake, high levels of protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin E.

Salsify proteins amount to 1.5 g for 3.5 oz (100 g), but carbohydrates are where it is striking with only 1/5th oz (5 g) for 3.5 oz (100 g) and relatively low calorie count at 30 kCal.

Purple salsify vs black salsify

Single purple salsify flowerNative to the Mediterranean area, purple salsify is often confused with black salsify which is a different (although related) plant.

Their taste is similar, but salsify will produce white roots and violet flowers whereas roots are black and flowers yellow for black salsify.

The purple flowers are why the common name of this vegetable is “purple salsify“.

Smart tip about salsify

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

Images: 123RF: fuzulhanum, CC BY 2.0: Beck; Pixabay: Susann Wagner, Radovan Zierik
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