What looks like an ugly brown stick, tastes like an oyster, and is related to a dandelion? Give up? It's salsify—and it's about to become your favorite root vegetable.
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Salsify, also occasionally called oyster plant or oyster root, was once a popular vegetable, beloved by folks from Victorian times. Slowly, however, it fell out of fashion, and now it's rare to find this long, skinny black root anywhere aside from your market stand. But this member of the dandelion family is coming back in vogue – and it's time to dig in.

You'll recognize salsify by its unique appearance. Two varieties exist, one black, one white. Either way, it's long and thin, sometimes with leaves attached to one end. You're most likely to find it in season, between October and January. In a pinch, you can find it online or even grow your own. Choose salsify that's firm and smooth; once peeled, either black or white varieties will reveal a stark white interior.

Salsify is a superfood worthy of the name, rich in fiber as well as nutrients like iron, vitamin C, thiamin, calcium, potassium, and phosphorous. It has a mild flavor that some compare to oysters (thus its nickname). Others say it's closer to the flavor of asparagus or artichoke, while still others find it more similar to the nutty Jerusalem artichoke. See who you agree with – try it out for yourself.

For a simple preparation that will provide perhaps the best introduction to salsify's mild flavor, peel the root well, cut it into small lengths, and cook in boiling water seasoned with a bit of lemon juice until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Next, drain it well and, in a pan over medium-high heat, glaze it in butter or olive oil with just a touch of salt and pepper until golden brown.

For a special treat, consider deep-frying salsify. Par-cook the root as above, then coat the bite-sized pieces in beaten egg. Next, roll the in breadcrumbs seasoned with Old Bay and deep-fry in oil. Serve hot with lemon wedges or homemade tartar sauce. Salsify can also be pan-fried in ghee with pepper and dill or air-fried and served with a tasty vegan mayonnaise.

Pan-Roasted Salsify
Pan-Roasted Salsify | Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Like many other root vegetables, salsify also makes a delicious purée. This celeriac purée recipe will be just as tasty with salsify, seasoned with just a touch of lemon and spicy cayenne. Serve alongside roast chicken or pork chops.

For something a bit more creative, consider using salsify in a simple gratin. Slice the salsify thinly with a knife or mandoline and lay in a greased casserole dish. Top with cream infused with garlic and black pepper, and top with a layer of nutty gruyere cheese before baking for an hour, until the salsify is tender and the cheese is golden brown and bubbly. It can also be combined with other root veggies in this seasonal gratin recipe, which also boasts a touch of nutmeg.

And while salsify is, of course, delicious cooked, it can also be eaten raw. Julienne it finely and swap it for cabbage in your favorite coleslaw recipe, or toss it with remoulade sauce for a unique play on a typical French recipe usually made with celery root.

No matter how you slice it, salsify is sure to soon become a welcome guest in your kitchen.