Will peo­ple learn to love sal­sify – nob­bles and all?

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - An­gela Mon­aghan

A veg­etable that was a sta­ple on Vic­to­rian din­ner ta­bles is mak­ing a come­back as Waitrose in­tro­duces sal­sify in 100 stores in the hope of in­spir­ing con­sumers with a taste of the past.

Com­mon in the 19th cen­tury but largely for­got­ten in British kitchen cup­boards to­day, the root veg­etable is be­ing sup­plied by Al­bert Bartlett, the po­tato grower based in Scot­land.

Sal­sify is de­scribed on the packet as hav­ing a sub­tle flavour, “a lit­tle like a mild ar­ti­choke, per­haps with a trace of liquorice or, when cooked, some even claim to de­tect a hint of oys­ters”.

The veg­etable fea­tured in the Vic­to­rian clas­sic, Mrs Bee­ton’s Book of House­hold Man­age­ment, first pub­lished in 1861.

The veg­etable will be avail­able at Waitrose in the black va­ri­ety, grown in Cam­bridgeshire and Nor­folk, as well as a small amount of white sal­sify, which is grown in the sandy soils of Ayr­shire in Scot­land. The crop is har­vested be­tween Septem­ber and De­cem­ber and will be on the shelves, in 350g packs for £2.99, un­til the spring.

Waitrose said the re­vival was part of a broader trend of in­creas­ing cus­tomer de­mand for tra­di­tional foods and in­gre­di­ents. The su­per­mar­ket chain, part of the John Lewis Part­ner­ship, is also in­tro­duc­ing Fen­land cel­ery – pop­u­lar in Vic­to­rian Christ­mas mar­kets in Lon­don – in se­lected stores. Tra­di­tional turnips are also be­com­ing more pop­u­lar, with sales up 37% com­pared with last year, ac­cord­ing to Waitrose.

Gary Grace, veg­etable buyer at Waitrose, said: “Over re­cent years we have seen many of the tra­di­tional cuts of meat come back into favour and we hope that cus­tomers will feel the same about sal­sify and Fen­land cel­ery and en­joy th­ese veg­eta­bles once again.”

Although a lesser known veg­etable in UK homes to­day, sal­sify is still pop­u­lar in con­ti­nen­tal Eu­rope, where it has been pre­dom­i­nantly grown in Italy and France since the mid­dle of the 17th cen­tury. It is also pop­u­lar among chefs.

Michel Roux Jr, the Miche­lin starred chef – who is also a “brand am­bas­sador” for Al­bert Bartlett – said: “Sal­sify is one of the most ver­sa­tile and tasty root veg­eta­bles – from raw in a coleslaw to roasted with spices. Truly de­li­cious.”

Waitrose is fea­tur­ing recipes such as sal­sify tagli­atelle with ba­con and chilli, and roast sal­sify with le­mon and gar­lic to co­in­cide with the launch this week of the veg­etable in some of its larger stores.

Nina Cooper, a food trends ex­pert at the creative con­sul­tancy Dragon Rouge, said: “Con­sumers are end­lessly on the hunt for a dis­cov­ery and want food with a story – an heir­loom va­ri­ety, a her­itage breed, an in­ter­est­ing grower, a lo­cal farm. The re­dis­cov­ery of a long­for­got­ten veg may well pique cu­rios­ity, par­tic­u­larly when we’re all look­ing to eat more healthily and would re­ally wel­come a dif­fer­ent tex­ture or an edge of new flavour.

“And when we’re in un­cer­tain times, we do tend to look for com­fort so a veg with solid, Vic­to­rian roots might just fit the bill,” Cooper said.

“For the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion, it’s not ex­actly a looker on the shelf. But now ugly, wonky veg are right in vogue, maybe we can learn to love its nob­bli­ness, too.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DORLING KINDERSLEY/GETTY

▼ White sal­sify, grown in the sandy soils of Ayr­shire in Scot­land, will be on su­per­mar­ket shelves over the win­ter

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