Black Salsify
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Black Salsify
ntroduced Photo: Thingnam Girija
Common name: Black Salsify, Spanish salsify, Black oyster plant, serpent root, viper's herb, viper's grass
Botanical name: Pseudopodospermum hispanicum    Family: Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Synonyms: Scorzonera sativa, Scorzonera edulis, Scorzonera hispanica

Black salsify is a perennial herb up to 3-4 ft tall. The stems are solitary or few in number, usually branched on the upper part. The leaves are broad, long, and narrow. They are 12-40 cm long, 3-6 cm broad, margins entire or wavy. The yellowish flower-head are borne at the end of the stems. The flower-heads have yellow ray flowers. The thin black taproot grows up to 1 m long and up to 2 cm in diameter. It has a black skin with white internal flesh. The black salsify is native to Southern Europe and the Near East, cultivated in parts of India. The thick black skin of the salsify root is usually considered inedible and can be removed either prior to or after boiling. If the skin is removed prior to boiling, the peeled root should be immediately immersed in water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice, in order to prevent discolouring. Since the root sap is an extremely sticky latex, it is often more convenient to peel it after boiling the root for 20 to 25 minutes. Black salsify is often eaten together with other vegetables, such as peas and carrots. But it is also popular served like asparagus in a white sauce, such as bechamel sauce or mustard sauce. Boiled salsify roots may also be coated with batter and deep fried.

Identification credit: Gurcharan Singh Photographed in Nubra Valley, Ladakh.

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