Walking through my garden, I saw what looked like GIANT DANDELION but upon closer inspection I could see that, besides it's size, there was something different. So off to Google and I'm absolutely thrilled that I have this lovely "vegetable" in my garden! (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa).
Tragopogon porrifolius is a common biennial wildflower, native to Mediterranean regions of Europe but introduced elsewhere, for example, into Great Britain, (mainly in the south) and northern Europe, North America, in southern Africa and in Australia; in the United States it is now found growing wild in almost every state, including Hawaii, except in the extreme south-east.
This is a plant with a root that can be eaten. Salsify looks like a giant dandelion, and in a similar fashion the purple flower (some species have a bright yellow flower) turns into a dainty, but LARGE, puffball, dispersing hundreds of seeds into the wind. Salsify is also known as Goat's Beard or Vegetable Oyster as their mild and sweet flavor is often compared to that of oysters. Some say they have a slight asparagus or artichoke taste, with an aftertaste of coconut. The leaves of the salsify plant are edible; this root vegetable is not often seen in supermarkets in South Africa, but is as easy to grow as carrots or parsnips.
• Easy to grow. Sow in garden. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 10°C and 30°C.
• Space plants: 15 - 20 cm apart
• Harvest in 14-21 weeks.
• Compatible with: Beans, Brassicas, Carrots, Celeriac, Endive, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Alliums, Spinach
It is a fairly slow-growing vegetable but can be harvested in small amounts as required. The ground can be loosened with a fork and a few roots lifted for use.
The plant grows to around 120cm in height. As with other Tragopogon species, its stem is largely un-branched, and the leaves are somewhat grass-like. It exudes a milky juice from the stems.
When buying, choose firm, medium-sized salsify, with no damp parts.
Serving Ideas :
Storing : Both varieties of salsify are best used fresh.
In the fridge: several days, unwashed in a loosely closed or perforated plastic bag.
Cooking : Cook briefly so that the flesh does not become mushy.
Salsify is a good source of potassium and contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, folic acid and phosphorus. It also contains inulin (a carbohydrate close to starch), which is suitable for diabetics to eat, as it does not affect blood sugar levels. Salsify is blood thinning and has a decongestant effect on the liver and kidneys.