Scorzonera - Black Oyster Plant, Black Salsify, Scorzonera, Viper's Grass
DESCRIPTION: Black Salsify, also known as Viper's Grass and Black Oyster Plant, is a hardy perennial, which belongs to the Daisy family, Compositae. They grow wild in southern and eastern Europe and in northern Africa. They are grown for their edible taproots, which are long, thin and black. These plants grow 2 to 3 feet high and have long, slender leaves, sometimes lobed. In their second season, they will produce yellow flowers that are 2 inches wide and resemble daisies.
POTTING: These plants love deep, fertile soil and a sunny position. The plants should be thinned to a foot apart. The roots are harvested in late autumn or winter after cold has sweetened them. Roots that have been dug in warm weather may be placed in a plastic bag and set in the refrigerator for a week to allow some of the starch to convert to sugar. Since the long roots are brittle, they should be dug up carefully. Saturate the soil deeply and lift up the roots with a spading fork. Scrub them and soak in vinegar-water for 4 to 6 hours to get rid of their natural bitterness. Don't peel them; doing so will decrease the flavor. The black skin will slip off after boiling. Black Salsify is less fibrous, easier to peel and tastes as good or better than common Salsify. (See, tragopogon.)
PROPAGATION: In the spring, seeds of Black Salsify are sown, however, late summer is better for the Deep South and warm West.
VARIETIES: S. hispanica. Gigantia.
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