Seer­zon­era Black Sal­sify

NZ Gardener - - 2018 Gardener Of The Year - FAM­ILY: ASTERACEAE SPECIES: SCORZONERA HISPANICA CUL­TI­VAR: DU­PLEX

Scorzonera, also known as black sal­sify, is a mem­ber of the Asteraceae daisy fam­ily that in­cludes let­tuce, Jerusalem ar­ti­choke, dan­de­lion and white sal­sify. Cul­ti­vated for its long, ed­i­ble tap­roots, which grow up to 50cm in length, it is be­lieved to have orig­i­nated in south­ern Europe and the East, and is gen­er­ally thought to have spread from Spain. It is also known as ser­pent root, viper’s grass and oys­ter plant. Typ­i­cal of the daisy fam­ily, scorzonera roots pro­duce a milky white sap, so it must be im­mersed in acidu­lated wa­ter (wa­ter with lemon juice or vine­gar) im­me­di­ately after peel­ing to avoid dis­coloura­tion. The roots gen­er­ally need about 20 min­utes on a gen­tle sim­mer to be­come ten­der and their flavour, once cooked, is earthy and nutty – akin to as­para­gus and ar­ti­choke – though some peo­ple per­ceive an oys­ter-like flavour as well. Although scorzonera was cul­ti­vated as a veg­etable in Italy and France as early as 1660, it is no longer widely grown and is now the re­serve of small-scale mar­ket gar­den­ers, though it has be­come pop­u­lar with chefs as a re­sult of its unique flavour and in­ter­est­ing tex­ture. It is gen­er­ally har­vested in late au­tumn, when the flavour is at its peak, and stores well over win­ter, though the roots are quite frag­ile and can lose their fresh­ness when bro­ken.

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