Salsify is a good food plant, with a most distinctive flavour reminiscent of oysters: hence its other name, vegetable oyster. The small parsnip-like roots are cooked and eaten in the manner of carrots or asparagus. The tops consist of long, narrow leaves of a greyish colour, and beyond the need for a sunny position in good soil, deep enough and light enough for the tap-roots to penetrate easily, it has no special requirements.
It is a welcome break away from the ordinary run of vegetables, and a small packet of seed will fill all likely needs, 1 ounce being sufficient for 200 ft. of row. Germination takes about nine days. Varieties are Giant and Mammoth.Ready for Use. Roots are ready for lifting in October and can be stored up to March.
Ground that is on the sandy side is ideal, especially if the seed can be sown where a deep-rooting crop such as peas or beans flourished. Poor soil should have old manure, or leaf-mould, worked in below the top 9 in., and leaf-mould or material from a worn-out hotbed or mushroom bed mixed with the top soil will help.
When and How to Sow.
The time to sow is April and May, and the longish seeds should be dropped in threes at 9-in. intervals in a 1 in. deep drill. If more than one row is required these should be 1 ft. apart.
Each cluster should be reduced to one plant when the grass-like seedlings are about 2 in. high. These may be transplanted if lifted carefully by means of a trowel.
Hoeing and weeding are the later attentions required.
Lifting the Roots.
The fork should be used to get the roots up – without breakages – when the plants have completed their growth in October.
They can be left in the ground for lifting as wanted during winter if the soil is light and dry. Otherwise they will be safer put into store in November.
Storing for Winter.
Freed of loose soil and the tops twisted off, the roots can be stored in a frostproof shed, cellar or attic, in dry soil or sand.
Preparing for Table.
Roots should be scraped gently to remove only a thin layer of peel, then placed in water containing a little lemon juice before cooking.