How to Grow Salsify

Salsify plantSalsify is a cool-weather root crop. Sow salsify as early as 2 weeks before the last expected frost in spring when the soil temperature has reached about 40°F. In mild winter regions, sow salsify in early autumn for a winter harvest. Salsify requires 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and is best when it comes to maturity in cool weather.

Salsify. Salsify is a hardy biennial vegetable grown as an annual. Salsify is grown for its long, tapered, carrot-like white root which is tender when harvested young. Salsify tastes a bit like oyster and is often referred to as “vegetable oyster” or “oyster plant.”

Scorzonera. A black rooted vegetable that resembles salsify is scorzonera. The botanical name of scorzonera is Scorzonera hispanica, also called Spanish salsify. Scorzonera is related to the radish. Salsify is related to chicory and the dandelion and is as easy to grow as dandelion. The growing requirement for scorzonera are the same as salsify.

Yield. Plant 10 salsify plants per household member.

Site. Plant salsify in full sun. Sow salsify in soil rich in organic matter well-worked to the depth of 8 to 12 inches. Remove all stones and soil lumps from planting beds; obstacles in the soil can cause roots to fork and split. Salsify prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.8.

Planting time. Salsify is a hardy cool-weather root crop. Sow salsify 2 weeks before the last expected frost in spring when the soil temperature has reached about 40°F. In mild winter regions, sow salsify in early autumn for a winter harvest. Salsify requires 120 to 150 days to reach harvest and is best when it comes to maturity in cool weather. Salsify can be harvested after the first freeze in autumn. Do not allow salsify to sit in the garden after temperatures rise above 85°F; roots will become stringy and fibrous.

Planting and spacing. Sow salsify seed ½ inch deep and ½ inch apart. Thin successful seedlings to stand 3 to 4 inches apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.

Water and feeding. Keep salsify evenly moist to prevent the roots from getting stringy. Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of planting. Side dress salsify with compost at midseason. Manure or too much nitrogen added to the soil before sowing can cause roots to fork and split.

Companion plants. Carrots, turnips, rutabaga, potatoes, sweet potatoes.

Care. Keep planting beds weed free. Mulch planting beds with 1 to 2 feet of straw if harvest is planned after the onset of freezing weather.

Container growing. Salsify, like many long-rooted crops, is not a good choice for container growing.

Pests. Salsify has no serious pest problems.

Diseases. Salsify has no serious disease problems.

Harvest. Salsify roots 12 inches long or longer are ready for harvest. Lift salsify whole by hand or with a spading fork being careful not to break roots. Roots require 120 to 150 days to reach harvest. Salsify can withstand freezing so leave roots in the ground until you want them. The longer salsify is in the ground the less it tastes like oysters.

Varieties. Giant Russian, Sandwich Island Mammoth, Scorzonera.

Storing and preserving. Salsify will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. Remove the tops before refrigerating. Roots can be kept in a cold, moist place for 2 to 4 months.

Common name. Salsify, oyster plant

Botanical name. Tragopogon porrifolius

Origin. Southern Europe

Grow 80 vegetables: KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE