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From soil to mouth – the winter vegetable in focus
Black salsify is often called the “asparagus of winter”. The reason for this becomes clear as soon as you peel and clean it, exposing the white aromatic stalk.
The black salsify belongs to the Scorzonera genus, which is commonly cultivated across Europe and Asia. The root vegetable is also known as the black oyster plant because of its strong, oyster-like flavour. The so-called taproot of the leafy plant is the edible part of the plant and has a long form that is reminiscent of a turnip. The name black salsify comes from the dark skin that covers the root; contained inside this black skin is the creamy, white flesh.
The black salsify is thought to have spread to Europe from Spain around the 17th century. The root prefers dry, sandy soil. If growing salsify at home, be careful not to break or damage the long, thin roots during harvest – otherwise the milky juice will escape and the root will dry out. Although they have a similar appearance to asparagus, they differ greatly in taste; black salsify have a mild nutty taste and a consistency that can be likened to carrots.
|Calories||54 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||2.1g carbohydrate, 18.3g fibre, 0.4g fat, 1.4g protein per 100g|
|Season||October to April|
|Storage||in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator or in the cellar at 10-12°C|
|Shelf life||1-3 weeks|
Undamaged black salsify can be stored for a few weeks in a cool cellar. To prolong the shelf life for up to three weeks, place the black salsify in a box and cover it with sand or soil. Another option is to simply wash them, wrap them in newspaper or a damp tea cloth, and store them in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator – this way they’ll stay fresh for up to one week.
Before you cook the black salsify, you must clean it thoroughly. The best way to do this is by scrubbing the skin under running water until all the sand or soil is gone. Next, peel the roots with a normal peeler or, better yet, an asparagus peeler. The milky juice is a good indicator of how fresh the black salsify is, however, it can discolour the hands, so perhaps consider wearing gloves.
If peeling the black salsify is proving very difficult, a good tip is to blanch them before peeling. Place the prewashed black salsify in boiling water with a drop of vinegar for 20 minutes, then run them directly under cold water and begin peeling. This will also prevent your hands from discolouring. In order to prevent the peeled stalks turning brown, place them in water with a drop of lemon juice or vinegar. This will help them maintain their appetising white colour before serving.
Many black salsify fans prepare the root similarly to asparagus: they cook or steam the stalks and then serve them with hollandaise sauce, potatoes, ham or schnitzel. However, the root vegetable is also delicious when prepared in other ways: sautéed black salsify is a great addition to pasta dishes or a risotto; sliced and deep-fried it can make a great alternative to fries; or pureed and added to a creamy soup it can result in an aromatic lunch dish. No matter what you have an appetite for, our black salsify recipes will leave you with the right inspiration!
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