Many forgotten vegetables are coming back into favour, one of them is scorzonera. 

It is known also as black salsify, Spanish salsify, black oyster plant, serpent root, viper’s herb or viper’s grass. Lots of names but very inconspicuous vegetable. Edible are almost black, long (even 30 cm), thick-skinned roots with white internal flesh. It used to be called “winter asparagus”, because its taste resembles asparagus, however, scorzonera is more stiff and less fibrous.

Winter and autumn are the seasons of root vegetables. The season for scorzonera starts in a middle of October and lasts until spring, thus it’s worth to introduce some variety to our menu with the presence of the delicious vegetable. We often feel uncomfortable with novelties, nevertheless, in this case culinary experiments are strongly advisable, as salsify can be prepared in many ways. We can simply boil it or roast in the companion of other root vegetables with addition of herbs. Grilled salsify serves great as an ingredient of salads. It can be added to many soups and makes an excellent substitution for potatoes. Scorzonera baked in bechamel  sauce could be served as a separate dish.

Preparation of scorzonera is a bit demanding, as roots must be thoroughly rinses prior to being peeled, and once the skin is removed, the roots must be immediately put into water with vinegar or lemon juice to prevent discolouring.

The name ‘serpent root’ comes from the old belief that the vegetable protected against snake bites. Was that true? It’s hard to say, but undoubtedly scorzonera is very nutritious and healthy, what has been known for ages. Roots are one of the best vegetable sources of protein (equally with peas and beans). It contains polysaccharide – inulin, which is transformed into fructose used to sweeten by diabetics. There are also vitamins – A, B1, B2, E and C, carotene, minerals –phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and sodium. Scorzonera is famous for its cough-stopping properties, it also stimulates our immune system, is recommended for swellings and high blood pressure, as it causes slight dehydration. It is good for nervous system, because it reduces symptoms of tiredness and depression. Due to the presence of calcium, scorzonera is advisable for people suffering from osteoporosis.

Chef of Verres en Vers recommends Mussel’s soup with white vegetables, including scorzonera. The taste of soup is emphasized by addition of famous French white wine Chablis and saffron. Enjoy it!


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