Botanical: Tragopogon porrifolius (LINN.)
---Synonyms---Purple Goat's Beard. Vegetable Oyster.
Family: N.O. Compositae
(French) Salsifis des prés.
The Salsafy, familiar as a kitchen-garden plant, is very similar to Goat's Beard, the main difference being the colour of the flowers - yellow in our native species, purple in the Salsafy.
Salsafy is often called the Purple Goat's Beard, from its likeness in general character to the Yellow Goat's Beard of the countryside. Some writers, again, invert this distinction and call the Yellow Goat's Beard, 'Meadow Salsafy.' The French call it 'Salsifis des prés.'
Salsafy is a corruption of the old Latin name solsequium. This was derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sequens (following), meaning the flower that followed the course of the sun.
It is a taller plant than the Goat's Beard, the stem being nearly 3 feet high. The leaves and flowers are similar in form, the flowers having the same peculiarity of closing at noon. The florets are of a delicate pale purple colour.
Though not a British species, it is occasionally found in moist meadows, having been originally a garden escape. It was formerly much cultivated for the sake of its fleshy, tapering roots.
---Cultivation---Salsafy is a very easy crop to grow and matures in a year.
A friable, open soil is preferable, though it will also grow on heavy soil. On a stony soil, or one made up of clay with flints scattered in it, it will not be a success, as the roots get coarse and forked. No manure should be added to the soil, as forking will also then result, but wood-ash, lime, soot, superphosphates, etc., may be used freely.
The seeds should be sown 1 inch or more deep, 4 inches apart, in drills 9 inches asunder, as early in March as possible, to give a long season for its growth.
The roots may be lifted in October and stored in the same way as Beet, Carrot, etc., or they may remain in the ground until the spring.
Salsafy seed frequently fails, unless kept wet from sowing time till the seedlings are well up.
It ranks as one of the most salubrious of culinary vegetables, being antibilious, cooling, deobstruent, and slightly aperient; but although it is deservedly esteemed as an esculent, it is nevertheless decidedly inferior to Scorzonera in properties, nor does it keep so well when taken out of the ground, as it soon becomes hardened, insipid, and difficult to cook properly.
- ---Medicinal Action and Uses---Culpepper says of Purple Goat's Beard:
- 'The virtues of this are the same as the other, only less pleasant, therefore more bitter, astringent, detersive and medicinal. This, however, may be eaten in great quantities, and so will be useful in chronic complaints. The roots are particularly specific in obstructions of the gall and the jaundice; the best way to use them is stewed like chardoons.'
See GOAT'S BEARD (YELLOW).
To serve plain boiled, the roots must be scraped lightly first, cut up into two or three portions, and placed in water, with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar, to prevent them discolouring. Then boiled for an hour, quickly, in salt water till tender, drained and served with a white sauce.