The name "salsify" is used to describe two similar root vegetables. White salsify is thin, forked, and pale in color, while black salsify (also known as scorzonera) is thicker, darker, and longer, resembling a brown carrot. This root vegetable has been popular in Europe since the 16th century and is just beginning to make its way to North American markets. Salsify is popular for its taste and is often referred to as the "oyster plant" as it possesses a similar sweet, earthy flavor. Salsify is also grown for pollination purposes as the the purple flowers tend to attract beneficial insects.
To prepare, salsify must be peeled and then covered in vinegar or lemon juice so as not to become discolored. Once the outer layer is removed, however, salsify can be blanched, sauteed, or roasted. Salsify is often pureed and can add an interesting flavor to any traditional dish, like soup or mashed potatoes. When purchasing, look for medium sized roots. Larger ones tend to be too fibrous and small ones do not hold as much meat. When stored properly, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, salsify can last up to two weeks.