schwarzwurzel aka salsify

On a weekend in the March, I visited the garden.  The day was not so nice.  It was drizzly, cold and windy.  My sandwiches were soggy.  I fell and was in a fair amount of pain which made it relatively difficult to accomplish a great deal of work.  But the day was still good.  Why?

A new and tasty food.

My significant other’s mother called me around lunchtime and asked if I had anything to eat.  I did.  Three soggy scrambled egg sandwiches.  But, I said no.  She proceeded to inform me that she would be bringing me lunch and tea.  I was expecting a hot dog soup or goulash (which are both very tasty).  Thirty minutes later I was greeted with a basketful of goodies – 2 muffins, a thermos of tea and a warm lunch consisting schnitzel, a fried egg, potatoes and a mystery vegetable (I mean that in a nice way, not like mystery meat).  I had no idea what exactly I was putting in my mouth, but it was really good.


My thoughts on the matter went something like this:  Looks like (white) asparagus.  Tastes different.  Could it be parsnips?  No, I don’t like parsnips this much.  Could it be pickled asparagus?  No, still not asparagus.  Wow, this is really good.  What is it?

Well, as it turns out it was Schwarzwurzel, or salsify to us English-speaking folks.  I did not even know that such a vegetable existed.  According to my partner’s mother, it is the poor man’s asparagus and it will stain your hands brown/black if you handle it without gloves.  This is good to know because I want to grow it in the garden.  New tastes and flavors are the best.

According to Mother Earth News, salsify is a member of the dandelion family.  It is a root vegetable that holds its shape well when cooking.  It can be prepared much like potatoes, rutabagas, turnips or parsnips (boiling, mashing, roasting, etc.).


To grow the plant, place seeds 1 – 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep in the soil.  The seeds take between 1 and 3 weeks to germinate.  When the plants are approximately 3 inches tall, they should be thinned to 2 – 4 inches apart.  These hardy plants prefer cooler weather and it is recommended that one provides the plants with shade if the temperature rises about 85 degrees F.  As the plants take a relatively long time to mature, between 100 and 120 days, they are considered slow-growing.  This means that they can be choked by fast growing weeds.  In turn, their growing space needs to be regularly weeded.  The plants also need to be adequately and regularly water or the root becomes fibrous.

Sounds easy enough – I hope.  All I know for sure is that it tasted good and I am ready to accept the salsify growing challenge.  Wish me luck!


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