Unusual Vegetables: Scorzonera, Salsify, and Celtuce

Scorzonera, Salsify, and Celtuce are three unusual vegetables you can plant early in spring and harvest through the gardening season.

| October/November 1994

146 unusual vegetables - sasify

Salsify is also known as vegetable oytser.


As in years past, you're going to in a garden next spring. Only this time you want to do it as early as possible. And in terms of what you plant, you've also decided to try venturing a little out of your comfort zone. Part of the garden will host venerable standbys like tomatoes, peas, and broccoli, and part will be a test bed for more unusual vegetables. Are there any such cultivars that will withstand cooler weather? Certainly! In fact there are at least three: scorzonera, salsify, and celtuce.

Scorzonera & Salsify 

These two root crops have a taste reminiscent of oysters.

Scorzonera hispanica, known as scorzonera, also called black salsify, black oyster plant, and viper's grass.

Tragopogon porrifolius , known as salsify, also called white salsify, oyster plant, and vegetable oyster.

Growing range: Throughout America.

History: Originating in the Mediterranean area, scorzonera and salsify were foraged and used by the ancient Romans as well as the Greeks. People never thought to cultivate them until sometime around the 1500s. They were then used for ornamental, medicinal, and culinary purposes. In the Middle Ages, scorzonera was considered a powerful tonic and snakebite cure — hence the name viper's grass. Salsify came to America in the 1700s and was at one time a popular root crop. When modern refrigeration and shipping techniques made the storage of perishable foods easy, salsify fell out of favor.

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