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Thursday, November 10, 2011


Black salsify is considered a superior vegetable to salsify which comes from Purple Goat’s Head, Tragopogon porrifolius, although the two are related coming as they do from the daisy (Asteracea family of plants). They both are sun-turners like sunflowers and both are believed to have origins in southern Europe. However the first written mention of Scorzonera comes in 1575 when it was seen in a market in Aleppo, Syria, which suggests that despite its botanical name (hispanica –Spanish) it actually originated in the Near East. Be that as it may it began to be cultivated in Europe in the 17th century on a wider scale, although references to it in 1801 suggest that it was considered less viable a crop than salsify (white) as the latter was easier and quicker to manage.
  Black salsify seems to have got its botanical name scorzonera from the Latin meaning black root although there is a suggestion that it comes from escuerza, Spanish for toad. It was the herb used “against the toad” apparently. In folk medicine this plant was used for the bites of venomous creatures, although I am not sure that Spanish toads are venomous. ”Scorzon” is also Old French for snake. Whatever the case, the fresh leaves of the plant were used, bruised and crushed, for viper’s bites and to relieve the pain of these. In some parts of Spain the latex from the root and stems was put in milk as a cure for the common cold. The root itself is considered a general strength-giver and was recommended as a tonic for the stomach. Like the Jerusalem artichoke Black salsify or Scorzonera contains inulin, making it suitable for diabetics.
   Black salsify contains vitamins B2, riboflavin and B6 pyridoxine, along with vitamins C, A and E as well as the minerals potassium, manganese, calcium, phosphorous and iron. Its flowers are reputed to smell like cocoa, while the root is said to taste either like oysters or the heart of a globe artichoke. The whole plant is edible as the petals can be used in salads or as garnish, while the young leaves can be used as spinach and the young tender shoots, leaves and buds can be cooked and eaten as asparagus. The root can be eaten raw, grated in salads or cooked, and this is particularly good in a cheese or béchamel sauce. The young flower buds can also be cooked in egg dishes, in omelettes or scrambled eggs.
  You should wear rubber gloves while preparing the root as your hands will be discoloured after cleaning it. You should peel the bark, thinly from the white root and immediately plunge it in acidulated water, as it discolours when exposed to air. When you peel it put it in a saucepan in water with the juice of a lemon in it. For a simple how to cook recipe try the one in the Purple Goat’s Head post. In Greece this root is frequently used with peas and carrots and casseroled in the oven with them, and it also goes well with lettuces which have been wilted in butter. The recipe below is for Black salsify used as a side dish to accompany meat.

4 large scorzonera roots, peeled and place in water with fresh lemon juice
1 juiced lemon
12 black peppercorns
4 or 5 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tsps dried thyme
1 bay leaf torn but still intact
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the peeled roots in a pan with water and lemon juice, the black peppercorns, 3 sprigs of thyme (1 tsp thyme, dried) bay leaf, coriander seeds and a little salt to taste.
Bring to the boil then simmer until tender (about 30 minutes).
Remove the roots from the liquid cool and cut them into small pieces, of equal size.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the salsify , seasoning it with the rest of the thyme and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook, stirring until it is golden-brown.
Add the butter and toss until the butter foams.
Remove from the heat. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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