Chef Holly Pierce of The Soul Chef breaks down the mystery behind salsify, a root vegetable featured in Just Add Cooking’s Drumsticks with Salsify Fritters Recipe.
You may be unpacking your delivery box or your farmers market share one week and find a long, skinny, light or dark brown tube-like vegetable which is not winning any awards on the ‘best looking’ scale and wonder what the heck it is. Moreover, how does one cook it and can this possibly taste good? Well, the answers in short order are: the root vegetable is called salsify, there are myriad ways to prepare it and yes, it is very tasty. In fact, in this week’s box salsify features prominently in our Drumsticks and Salsify Fritters recipe!
Salsa-what? Indeed. Salsify (pronounced ‘SAL-seh-fee’) a delicious root vegetable once widely used in Europe and the United States before fading into relative obscurity, is gaining notoriety again. The plant, also called Purple Goat’s Beard and the ‘oyster plant’ (presumably because its taste is reminiscent of an oyster, although this is debatable) has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes throughout the ages.
There are two different varieties, white and black salsify. The white is more of a light brown and has a taste some people liken to asparagus or artichoke hearts while the black is said to have a mild oyster flavor. The flesh in both white and black salsify is creamy white, similar to a parsnip or turnip and both varieties require a good scrub before being used. There are a few schools of thought on the peeling before or after they are cooked. As the saying goes, it is six of one, half a dozen of the other. If you go the peeled before route, a standard vegetable peeler will do the trick. You can then slice or chop the peeled roots as you like. If you intend to cook them whole, you can leave them unpeeled and then rub the peels off when they are cooked. This works well if you plan to mash them.
Some ideas for using salsify: peel and slice it into rounds, steam it until just tender then saute in a bit of butter (or if you’re feeling really bold, some bacon fat) for a simple side dish. It is wonderful mashed as a stand-in for potatoes, grated into fritters or latkes and is a terrific addition to soups and stews (peel and slice the same way you would a carrot or parsnip). It pairs well with all kinds of meats and is a satisfying addition to vegetarian dishes.
You’ll find salsify at your local farmers market and in some grocery stores in the spring and fall. Look for firm roots and store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a week.
I encourage you to be adventurous and give it a try! It is delectable and a wonderful new flavor profile to introduce to your repertoire.