Tragopogon porrifolius | Purple Salsify
Known as Purple Salsify, Common Salsify, Purple Goats Beard, Oyster Plant, Vegetable Oyster, Jerusalem Star, or Giant Dandelion, Tragopogon porrifolius is an old root vegetable that’s been grown since ancient times in Europe and especially cultivated in England, Belgium and France.
Tragopogon porrifolius grows as a biennial, or monocarpic perennial. They are most commonly found along roadsides, fields, meadows, waste lots, overgrazed areas, and other disturbed open areas at low to middle elevations. Leaves are narrow, long and grass-like and plants are up to 3 ft tall. Flowering from May-August, salsify’s beautifully symmetrical flower heads give way to giant, puffy white seed heads, which are sometimes more appealing than the flower.
Can tolerate extreme drought and dry heat. Many species of bees and flies visit the flowers for pollen.
Despite its presence as a weed, Salsify enjoyed recurring promotion in newspapers and books as an alternative vegetable through the mid-twentieth century. The thick white roots are edible. They store their carbohydrates as inulin instead of starch, which turns to fructose instead of glucose during digestion, so is ideal for diabetics as it reduces their glucose load. Eaten raw, the roots are extremely bitter, but when fried, roasted, or boiled in a soup or stew the roots taste like artichokes, parsnips, or that of oysters. Young leaves can be cut and eaten as a salad or used as a spicy component in soups. Closed buds can be sautéed briefly, and the purple flowers are also edible and may be used in salads.
Type: Biennial, or perennial
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3 ft
Mature width: 18 inches
Hardiness zones: 6-9