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Salsifis (Tragopogon porrifolius, common or purple salsify) is also known as the ‘oyster vegetable’ for its delicate oyster-like flavour. The French, Italians, and Germans are rather more fond of them than people in English-speaking countries.

The more common (and easier to cultivate) scorsonère (Scorzonera hispanica or black salsify) is similar. In French it’s also known as scorsonère d'Espagne, or salsifis noir. Its English names include Spanish salsify, black oyster plant, serpent root, viper's herb, viper's grass or scorzonera. Both kinds are related to the sunflower.


Most people buy them ready to use in cans, because they are a devil to peel when fresh. In Lyon, they call peeled salsifies doigts de mort (‘dead man’s fingers’)! Often they are sautéed as a side dish.

Boutons de scorsonères are the flower buds of the plant, which some people gather in spring to put in an omelette.


Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Open Food Facts, Popo le Chien