Latin Name: Tragopogon porrifolius
Description: A herb which keeps growing from year to year. It can be up to 1.5 m high and spreads to 1 m wide. It has a white thickened root. It can grow for one or two years. It has a clump of long leaves a little like an onion. They are bluish-green and grass-like. They clasp the stem and are keeled along the back surface. It produces long stalked purplish flower heads. The flowers are 3-6 cm across. The cut leaves produce milky sap.
Notes: The root, and sometimes the young shoots, of T. porrifolius are used as a vegetable, and historically the plant was cultivated for that purpose; it is mentioned by classical authors such as Pliny the Elder. Cultivation in Europe began in the 16th century in France and Italy. In Great Britain it was initially grown for its flower and later became a mildly popular vegetable in the 18th century but then declined in popularity. Presently the root is cultivated and eaten most frequently in France, Germany, Italy and Russia. However in modern times it has tended to be replaced by Spanish salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) as a cultivated crop. Cultivated varieties include White French, Mammoth Sandwich Island, and Improved Mammoth Sandwich Island; they are generally characterised by larger or better-shaped roots. The root becomes discolored and spoils quickly if broken, which can easily happen since it is difficult to remove from the soil without damage.
Edibility Rating out of 5: 3
Medicinal Rating out of 5: 2
Edible Uses: Root – raw or cooked. The young root can be grated in salads, older roots are best cooked. The flavour is mild and sweet, and is said to resemble oysters. The roots are harvested as required from October until early spring, or can be harvested in late autumn and stored until required. Young shoots – raw or cooked. The new growth is used in spring. A sweet taste. Flowering shoots – raw or cooked. Used like asparagus. Flowers – raw. Added to salads. The sprouted seeds can be added to salads or sandwiches. The root latex is used as a chewing gum.
Medicinal Uses: Antibilious; Aperient; Deobstruent; Diuretic.
Medicinal Information: Salsify is a cleansing food with a beneficial effect upon the liver and gallbladder. The root is antibilious, slightly aperient, deobstruent and diuretic. It is specific in the treatment of obstructions of the gall bladder and jaundice and is also used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and high blood pressure.