Word of Mouth: Salsify

Salsify [ˈsalsəfē; -ˌfī] n. A plant in the daisy family with a long root like that of a parsnip.

We posted a recipe on Tuesday for Buttery Salsify Puree with Horseradish, and there were several comments asking how the name of this uncommon vegetable is pronounced. According to our dictionary it can be pronounced with either a long or short "i" - salsa-fee or salsa-fye.

However you choose to pronounce salsify, it turns out that there have been even more great words attached to this vegetable in its long and international career... The word comes from the French, salsifis, and sometimes it can still be found on menus and in cookbooks by its French name. We just saw a blog entry recounting a trip to Thomas Keller's French Laundry where the diners' vegetable tasting menu included salsifis.

Salsify was a popular garden crop in colonial America, but it fell out of favor, as did many other root vegetables, when advances in preservation made more delicate vegetables more easily available. It's still widely grown and eaten in France, however.

We like some of the other names that salsify goes by - they sound pleasantly earthy. In Charles McIntosh's 1853 treatise, The Book of the Garden, he says that salsify is also a member of the leek family, and commonly known as "goat's beard" because of its matted and trailing roots. In Italian it's known as sassifica; in German, Bocksbart; and in Spanish, barba cabruna - which is colloquial Spanish for goat's beard!

Look for salsify in the winter and early spring; as a root vegetable it keeps quite well.

(Image: Gourmet Seed)

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