Seerzonera Black Salsify
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.