Salsify Plant Roots
(Image credit: Fuzullhanum)

The salsify plant (Tragopogon porrifolius) is an old-fashioned vegetable that is very hard to find in the grocery store, which means that salsify as a garden plant is fun and unusual. Common names for this vegetable include oyster plant and vegetable oyster, due to its distinct oyster flavor. Planting salsify is easy. Let's take a look at what is required to grow salsify.

How to Plant Salsify

The best time to plant salsify is in early spring in areas that get snow, and early autumn in areas where snow does not fall. It takes about 100 to 120 days for salsify plants to reach harvesting size and they prefer cool weather. When you grow salsify, you'll be starting with seeds. Plant salsify seeds about 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) apart and ½ inch (1 cm.) deep. Seeds should germinate in about a week but can take up to three weeks to sprout. Once the salsify seeds have sprouted and are about 2 inches (5 cm.) high, thin them to 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm.) apart.

Tips for Salsify Care

Growing salsify will need frequent weeding. Since it is slow growing, fast-growing weeds can quickly overtake it and choke out the salsify plant. It is best to grow salsify in loose and rich soil. Much like carrots and parsnips, the easier it is for the roots to get into the soil, the bigger the roots will grow, which will result in a better harvest. When growing salsify, it's also important to keep the plant well watered. Even and adequate watering will keep the salsify roots from becoming fibrous. Also be sure to shade plants during high temperatures. Salsify grows best in cooler temperatures and can get tough if the temperatures rise above 85 degrees F. (29 C.) Shading your salsify in temperatures like this can help keep your salsify tender and tasty.

When and How to Harvest Salsify

If you planted your salsify in spring, you'll be harvesting it in the fall. If you planted salsify in the fall, you'll harvest it in the spring. Most gardeners who grow salsify recommend waiting until after a few frosts have hit the plant before harvesting. The thought is that the cold will “sweeten” the root. This may or may not be true, but it doesn't hurt to grow salsify in the ground while there is frost in order to extend the storage time. When harvesting salsify, keep in mind that the roots can go down a full foot (31 cm.) and breaking the root can dramatically reduce the storage time. Due to this, when you harvest salsify, you want to make sure that you lift the whole root out of the ground without breaking it. Use a spading fork or shovel, dig down alongside the plant, being sure to allow for avoiding the root as you go down. Gently lift the root out of the ground. Once the root is out of the ground, brush the dirt off and remove the tops. Allow the harvested root to dry in a cool, dry place. Once the root is dry, you can continue to store in the cool, dry place or in your refrigerator.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.