Common names: salsify, oyster plant

Botanical name: Tragopogon porrifolius Origin: southern Europe


Few varieties are available; grow the variety available in your area.


Salsify is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. It's related to dandelion and chicory, and its flowers look like lavender chicory blossoms. The edible part is the long taproot. This salsify should

not be confused with black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) or Spanish salsify (Scolymus hispanicus); both of these are related to the radish. Some people claim that salsify has a slight oyster flavor — hence the name "oyster plant." In fact, it tastes rather like artichoke hearts.

Where and when to grow

Salsify is hardy and tolerates cold. Like its prolific cousin, the dandelion, it's very easy to grow and will grow anywhere in the United States. Plant salsify from seed two or three weeks before your area's average date of last frost.

How to plant

Plant salsify seeds in full sun in rich, well-worked soil. When you're preparing the soil for planting, work in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Work the soil thoroughly to a depth of eight to 12 inches, and remove all stones, soil lumps, or rocks that might cause the roots to fork and split. Plant the seeds half an inch deep in rows 18 to 24 inches apart, and when the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to stand two to four inches apart.

Fertilizing and watering

Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Don't overfertilize salsify; it will cause the roots to fork and split. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.

Keep salsify evenly moist to prevent the roots from getting stringy.


Salsify has no serious pest problems.


Salsify has no serious disease problems.

When and how to harvest

Time from planting to harvest is about 120 days, and a 10-foot rovA should yield 20 to 40 roots. Salsify roots can take freezing, so leave them in the ground as long as possible until you want them. The longer they're out of the ground, the less they taste like oysters. To harvest, dig up the whole root.

Storing and preserving

Cut the tops off salsify and store the roots in the refrigerator for one to three weeks, or store in a cold, moist place for two to four months. For freezing, handle salsify like parsnips. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.

Serving suggestions

Salsify roots should not be peeled before cooking; they can "bleed'." Scrub them clean, steam, and slicethem, then dip the slices in batter or breadcrumbs and fry; serve with tartar sauce. People who have never had oysters can't tell them apart. Try salsify braised with lemon and butter — the lemon helps preserve the color. Or serve it with a white sauce; add chopped parsley for color.

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