You will find these
two root vegetables in all the seed catalogues
but in very few gardens. They have been around
for centuries, but they still remain oddities
in Britain. Salsify looks rather like a poorly-grown
parsnip – long, rather thin and slightly
corky. The flavour, however, is much superior
to the parsnip – a delicate taste which
has been likened to both asparagus and oysters
– hence the alternative name ‘oyster
plant’. Its black-skinned relative is scorzonera,
which has an ugly appearance and an awkward name
but a delicious flavour.
Expected germination time: 12-16 days
Approximate number per ounce: 2000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 4lb (2kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 2 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 25
Ease of cultivation: Easy – but careful
weeding is necessary.
· These vegetables grow best in deep, friable
and stone-free soil which has nor been recently
· Dig deeply in autumn or early winter
and refrain from adding any fresh manure or compost.
Lime if necessary. Break down clods and rake in
Growmore fertilizer when preparing the seedbed.
Dig drills ½ in (1cm) deep and plant groups
of 3 seeds 6in (15cm) apart and cover with soil.
Thin seedlings to leave 1 plant. Rows should be
12in (30cm) apart.
Sowing time: Late April; can extend from the beginning
of April to mid May.
Lifting time: Mid October to mid February; can
extend to the end of April.
Looking after the crop
· Salsify and scorzonera will not produce
satisfactory roots after transplanting, so throw
· Weed carefully around each plant. If
using a hoe, avoid at all costs touching the crown
of the plant.
· The crop requires very little attention
and is rarely attacked by pests. Water in dry
weather and apply a mulch in summer.
· The roots are ready for lifting from
mid October onwards. They are hardy and can be
left in the soil until April. Lift as required,
taking great care not to snap the brittle, foot-long
roots. You will not be able to harvest them in
frosty weather, so lift some in November and store
as for carrots.
· Some books recommend that the tops should
be cut off some of the roots in autumn and the
fresh shoots which appear in spring used as greens
in May. This is not really advisable – these
vegetables produce superior-tasting roots but
only average-flavoured leaves.
There are only 2 or 3 varieties and there are
no particular merits to help you make your choice.
Just buy the one you are offered.
Mammoth-Sandwich Island: Some suppliers call it
Mammoth – in other catalogues it is listed
as Sandwich Island. This variety of salsify has
been around since the beginning of last century.
Giant: The only other variety you are likely to
find – just as reliable as Mammoth-Sandwich
Russian Giant: By far the most popular variety
of scorzonera – you might be offered Long
Black instead but there is little to choose between