Last revised February 15, 2010
Salsify (approximately 120 days), is grown primarily for its root. It is also known as the Vegetable Oyster or Oyster Plant because of the root's oyster-like flavor. Its fleshy root resembles a slender parsnip. It is a hardy vegetable requiring a long (about 150 days) growing season. The tender, broad, grass-like leaves are also used as salad greens. Scorzonera (approximately 120 days), also called Black Salsify or Spanish Salsify, closely resembles salsify in root shape and internal root color, but is not closely related taxonomically. The root is black externally and the leaves spiny. The root is considered to be finer textured, and remains so further into the winter. The leaves are much broader or oblong, and can also be used as a salad green. The plant is more vigorous. Cultural practices for both vegetables are very similar.
Varieties have not been evaluated at Oregon State University. The following are suggested for trial:
Salsify: Mammoth Sandwich Island, French Blue Flowered.
Scorzonera: Duplex, Flandria, Long Black Rooted, Giant Black Russian.
Use only deep, well-drained, friable soils, that have good water-holding capacity, are uniform to a depth of 18-24 inches, and can be loosened to this depth. This is important for the development of long, straight roots. Sandy loams and muck soils are ideal since harvest can extend into the rainy fall season and such soils allow harvest shortly after rain. A pH of 6.0 or above is preferred.
Seeds of both vegetables number 2000-2500 per ounce. Use only quality seed that has been tested and treated recently.
Plant both vegetables in rows 10-15 inches apart and 1-2 inches in the row. Uniformity in the row is very important for uniformly shaped roots.
For the most current advice, see Nutrient Management for Sustainable Vegetable Cropping Systems in Western Oregon, available as a free download from the OSU Extension Catalog
A soil test is the most accurate guide to fertilizer requirements. The following are general guidelines. Broadcast and disc, or band, at time of planting the following:
Nitrogen: 30-50 (N) 30-50 lb/acre. Sidedress with 25-35 lb N/acre about 6 weeks after seeding. Add additional N as needed.
Phosphate: 145-155 (P2O5) lb/acre.
Potash: 110-130 (K2O) lb/acre, sulfate form
Roots may be dug, topped, and stored in cold storage. They may also be left in the ground until needed.
Store roots at 32 F and 95 to 98% relative humidity. Topped salsify has the same storage requirements as topped carrots. High relative humidity is a must, since the long slender roots are highly sensitive to shriveling from moisture loss. Losses from shrivel can be minimized if perforated film crate liners are used. The roots are not injured by slight freezing. They should not be handled, or carefully handled while frozen. Under the conditions specified, they should keep for 2 to 4 months.
Scorzonera or black salsify has similar storage requirements. Extended storage is reported to be possible with storage in a controlled atmosphere of 3 percent oxygen and 3 percent carbon dioxide at 32 F.
Roots may be packaged in 25-lb film bags, or 12-lb cartons holding 12 cello bags, 1 lb each.