Salsify is also known as vegetable oyster (because of the colour) and poor man's asparagus.
Scorzonera, or scorza nem, means black skin in Italian.
Salsify's purple flowers can be eaten in salads and omelettes.
Scorzonera, also known as viper grass, was once used as a snakebite cure.
Jars of ready prepared salsify, available from some delis and French supermarkets, are a good store-cupboard standby.
Neither looks very appealing. Salsify resembles a long, very dirty parsnip, while scorzenera is less pointed, with black-brown skin. But underneath the grubby cream or dark brown skin lies pearly white, translucent flesh. The flavour is delicious, a combination of artichoke and celeriac, with a hint of asparagus, while the texture is like artichoke bottoms.
To Prepare Salsify
First soak it briefly in cold water, and then give it a good scrub. Peel it with a potato peeler (don't worry about the gluey sap
which seeps out), and cut it into lengths short enough to fit into the saucepan. Drop the pieces straight into water with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt added and boil for about 20 minutes, until tender. An alternative is to boil the salsify unpeeled, and then rub the skin off under a running tap. This method is less wasteful, and preserves the maximum flavour, but cooking the salsify in its skin can give it a slightly bitter taste. Peeling it first also makes it easier to spot any discoloured patches and cut them out.