2 veg­eta­bles to help you spice up win­ter

Fancy some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent this win­ter to give you a change from the usual car­rots and parsnips?

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Growing -

Try sal­sify and scor­zon­era.

Kary C Davis raved about sal­sify in the 1917 school text­book, Pro­duc­tive Plant Hus­bandry.

“This is a very palat­able win­ter veg­etable, with long, white, ta­per­ing roots. When cooked and served with milk or cream it is thought to re­sem­ble the oys­ter in flavour, hence it is also known as the ‘ veg­etable oys­ter’.”

Pe­ter Hen­der­son, in his work Gar­den­ing for Plea­sure (1888), also de­scribed it as a valuable win­ter veg­etable.

“The cul­ture of this veg­etable is the same in all re­spects as for car­rots. Like the parsnip, it is hardy, and can be left out dur­ing win­ter in any dis­trict with­out in­jury from frost. It is rapidly be­com­ing more pop­u­lar. It is stewed like parsnips or car­rots, is used to make soup, which has a de­cided flavour of the oys­ter, or is first par­boiled and then fried.”

Sal­sify (com­mon or white sal­sify, Trago­pogon por­ri­folius) is an un­usual plant. Even to­day, some gar­den­ers re­fer to it as a veg­etable oys­ter, al­though the flavour is barely de­tectable. I’d de­scribe it more like a nutty ar­ti­choke, but that might put some peo­ple off too.

Scor­zon­era (black sal­sify, Scor­zon­era his­pan­ica) is sim­i­lar in flavour but with longer, thin­ner roots and a dark skin. In per­fect soil con­di­tions (light, sandy), the roots can grow up to 60cm long. It is more vig­or­ous than sal­sify and ma­tures ear­lier. It’s grown mostly for its roots, but the leaves and flow­ers are ed­i­ble too.

Hen­der­son de­scribed black sal­sify as the more flavour­some of the two.

“This is some­what dif­fer­ent in flavour from sal­sify, and is pre­ferred by many. It has much broader leaves, but is cul­ti­vated and used in the same man­ner.”

Both plants are great crops for the win­ter gar­den. Sow them now and you could be en­joy­ing a hearty win­ter meal in as lit­tle as 12 weeks.

Grow as you would parsnips. Add a gen­eral fer­tiliser 2-3 weeks be­fore sow­ing, but leave out the com­post and ma­nure as the roots will fork in rich soils. Sow di­rectly into well-drained, deeply-dug soil. Use fresh seed, no more than a year old, as it quickly loses its vi­a­bil­ity.

Sal­sify takes 16-20 weeks to ma­ture. Scor­zon­era can take as lit­tle as 12 weeks. The roots of scor­zon­era reach their full length about nine weeks af­ter sow­ing, af­ter which they in­crease in di­am­e­ter. Frost con­verts starches to sugar and im­proves the flavour.

Har­vest these veg­eta­bles gen­tly, as the roots snap eas­ily. You can en­joy them in win­ter soups, as a steamed veg­etable, or as a veg­e­tar­ian ‘oys­ter’.

Sal­sify and scor­zon­era are vir­tu­ally in­ter­change­able in recipes. Scrub clean, boil or steam, then peel, as the thick, ined­i­ble skin is then much eas­ier to re­move. Hen­der­son sug­gests par­boil­ing, then fry­ing them, and you can al­ways throw them on the bar­be­cue.

White sal­sify ( Trago­pogon por­ri­folius)

Boil or steam first, then re­move the skin Black sal­sify ( Scor­zon­era)

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