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Harvesting Salsify: Information On Harvesting And Storing Salsify

Harvesting Salsify: Information On Harvesting And Storing Salsify


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By: Jackie Carroll

Salsify is grown primarily for its roots, which have a flavor similar to oysters. When the roots are left in the ground over winter, they produce edible greens the following spring. The roots don’t store well and, for most growers, harvesting salsify as it is needed solves these storage problems. Let’s learn more about salsify plant harvesting and how to store salsify roots for the best outcome.

How and When to Harvest Salsify Root

Salsify is ready for harvest in fall when the foliage dies. The flavor is improved if the roots are exposed to a few frosts before harvesting salsify. Dig them with a garden fork or spade, inserting the tool deep enough into the soil that you don’t cut the root. Rinse off the excess soil and then dry the salsify roots with a kitchen or paper towel.

The roots quickly lose flavor, texture and nutritional value once harvested, so harvest only as much as you need at one time. Roots left in the garden over winter tolerate frost and even hard freezes. If the ground freezes solid during winter in your area, harvest some extra roots before the first hard freeze. Harvest the remaining roots before growth resumes in spring.

Salsify Plant Harvesting for Greens

Harvesting salsify greens is something that many people enjoy as well. Cover the roots with a thick layer of straw in winter if you plan to harvest the edible greens. Cut the greens in spring when they are about 4 inches tall.

How to Store Salsify

Harvested salsify roots keep best in a bucket of moist sand in a root cellar. If your home is like most these days, it doesn’t have a root cellar. Try storing salsify in a bucket of moist sand sunk into the ground in a protected area. The bucket should have a tight-fitting lid. The best way to store salsify, however, is in the garden. Over winter it will maintain its flavor, consistency and nutritional value.

Salsify keeps for a few days in the refrigerator. Rinse and dry the roots and place them in a plastic bag before refrigerating when storing salsify this way. Salsify doesn’t freeze or can well.

Scrub the roots well before cooking, but don’t peel salsify. After cooking, you can rub the peel off. Squeeze diluted lemon juice or vinegar over cooked salsify to prevent discoloration.

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Black Salsify in the Garden

Black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica), is also known as Spanish salsify. Black salsify is a cool season crop grown primarily for its long, brown-black roots, but its leaves can also be used as fresh greens for salads. The roots of black salsify tend to be longer, smoother, less fibrous, and of a finer texture than regular salsify. It is also more cold hardy, but requires about the same length growing period as regular salsify, which is 120 days. The cultural practices for both are also generally the same. Both have an oyster-like taste which gives them the name “oyster plant” and both are highly suitable for diabetic diets.


The Salsify – A Little History and Some Growing Instructions

Salsify is a hardy, long-season perennial vegetable that has a deliciously flavorful creamy root. It has been cultivated for centuries in Southern Europe and around the Mediterranean. It has never gained widespread popularity, but has always had a very loyal following among a devoted few.

Salsify came to the New World with the colonists and was grown throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic. In 1848 it was written, “The Salsify is indigenous to England. The roots are bioled or stewed like carrots, and have a mild, sweetish flavor. They are also par-boiled, made into cakes, and fried like oysters, which, when thus cooked, they strongly resemble, in both taste and scent. The stalks of year old plants are sometimes cut in the spring, when about four or five inches high, and dressed like asparagus. The cultivation of the root is precisely the same as that of the carrot, parsnip, and beet, and is preserved during the winter in a similar manner.”

Salsify, also known as oyster plant, looks something like a skinny parsnip, but unlike parsnip it is not very sweet. Its rich, unique flavor has been likened to oysters. Salsify does not keep long after it is harvested. It is recommended that salsify be left in the ground and harvested as needed.

Salsify requires a light, well-drained soil rich in compost or other organic matter. Sow seed, thinly, in spring, planting 1 inch deep in rows 18-24 inches apart. Thin plants to 4 inches apart. The plants require a long growing season, 120 days, but are very cold tolerant and the roots tend to be more flavorful when exposed to several hard frosts. Salsify can overwinter if mulched heavily.


Mammoth Sandwich Island Salsify

up to 8" long and 2" wide. Gently peeled and cleaned, these tan, slender, forked roots bestow creamy-white, tender flesh and a beguiling flavor to braised meat dishes, cheese-laced gratins and roasted root vegetable melanges after being just lightly steamed or briefly poached (avoid creating mush unless mashing). (OP.)

One packet of about 150 seeds

Trogopogon porrifolius. AKA the Oyster Plant, the Vegetable Oyster. Popular in the U.S. in the 1700s, this ancient Mediterranean native is coming back into favor now. Looking like a whiskered, tan-white forked Carrot, it tastes like a cross between Artichoke hearts and oysters. Direct sow in a deeply dug bed in full sun as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Water well until the sprouts emerge. Harvest in late fall (although it may overwinter in milder climates).

Average seed life: 1 year.

  • Salsify Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :1/2”-3/4”
    Row Spacing:4”-5”
    Seed Spacing:1”
    Days to Germination:14-21 days
    Germination Temperature:45°-85°F

Tragopogon porrifolius, the Oyster Plant. Salsify can be slow to sprout, so order fresh seed each year. As soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, soak the seeds for 24 hours in lukewarm water to assist germination. Sow directly into a well-draining, deeply dug bed in full to partial sunlight. Sow thickly and evenly, cover well and tamp down firmly. Keep the seed bed evenly moist until germination. Once the seedlings are 2" tall, thin them out to 4" apart. Mulch to deter weeds and retain ground moisture. Salsify produces flat, narrow green leaves and pale-skinned thin roots, often forked, with scraggly little rootlets. After the first hard frost, gently work them free of the soil and store in a cool, dry spot until use. You may also leave them in the ground to harvest up until the ground freezes, or overwinter them for an early spring treat.

Trogopogon porrifolius. AKA the Oyster Plant, the Vegetable Oyster. Popular in the U.S. in the 1700s, this ancient Mediterranean native is coming back into favor now. Looking like a whiskered, tan-white forked Carrot, it tastes like a cross between Artichoke hearts and oysters. Direct sow in a deeply dug bed in full sun as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Water well until the sprouts emerge. Harvest in late fall (although it may overwinter in milder climates).

Average seed life: 1 year.

  • Salsify Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :1/2”-3/4”
    Row Spacing:4”-5”
    Seed Spacing:1”
    Days to Germination:14-21 days
    Germination Temperature:45°-85°F

Tragopogon porrifolius, the Oyster Plant. Salsify can be slow to sprout, so order fresh seed each year. As soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, soak the seeds for 24 hours in lukewarm water to assist germination. Sow directly into a well-draining, deeply dug bed in full to partial sunlight. Sow thickly and evenly, cover well and tamp down firmly. Keep the seed bed evenly moist until germination. Once the seedlings are 2" tall, thin them out to 4" apart. Mulch to deter weeds and retain ground moisture. Salsify produces flat, narrow green leaves and pale-skinned thin roots, often forked, with scraggly little rootlets. After the first hard frost, gently work them free of the soil and store in a cool, dry spot until use. You may also leave them in the ground to harvest up until the ground freezes, or overwinter them for an early spring treat.


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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. Gardenate is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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Yard and Garden: Harvesting and Storing Root Crops

AMES, Iowa – Yes, the weather has turned cold, with hard freezes and continuing freezing overnight temperatures now the norm. Most garden crops have been harvested. But a few root crops remain, and with good reason. When is the right time to harvest and store them properly?

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists can help answer questions about harvesting root crops. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or [email protected]

When should parsnips be harvested?

Harvest parsnips in mid- to late November in Iowa. Cool fall temperatures convert starch to sugar and give parsnips their sweet, nut-like flavor.

When harvesting parsnips, carefully dig up the plants, as damaged or broken roots do not store well. After harvest, trim the foliage back to within 1 inch of the roots. Store parsnips at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent. Small quantities can be placed in perforated plastic bags and stored in a refrigerator. A basement storage room or root cellar are suitable storage sites for large quantities.

When should salsify be harvested?

Harvest salsify in mid- to late November, as cool fall temperatures enhance the oyster-like flavor of the roots. After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store salsify at 32 F and a relative humidity of 95 to 98 percent.

When should rutabagas be harvested?

Rutabagas perform best when planted in mid-summer for a fall crop. Harvest rutabagas in early to mid-November, as exposure to several frosts sweeten the flavor of the roots. After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store rutabagas at 32 F and 95 percent relative humidity. Rutabagas can be stored up to six months with proper storage conditions.

When should horseradish be harvested?

Harvest horseradish in late November in Iowa, as horseradish roots make their greatest growth in late summer and early fall.

Carefully dig up horseradish and cut off the foliage about 1 inch above the crown. Store horseradish in a refrigerator or root cellar at 32-40 F and a relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. When storing horseradish, keep the roots in a dark location, as the roots turn green when exposed to light.


Watch the video: Salsify - What The Heck is That?


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