If you’ve popped into your local Waitrose lately you might have noticed something a little different appearing on the shelves. Helped by supplier Albert Bartlett, (yes, the potato people!), Waitrose are now selling Salsify in over 100 stores – basically they’re hoping it will be the next big hipster root veg. But here’s the thing, if you’d been around in the Victorian era this probably would have been one of your year-round staples.

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What is Salsify?

Well, it’s a hardy and versatile root vegetable that grows well all year round, it looks like parsnip when fully peeled, and it’s a member of the dandelion family. It comes in two varieties, black and white, and you can also eat its purple flowers. Salsify is also nicknamed the oyster plant because it has an oyster like taste, though its suppliers have also said that it’s like a mild artichoke with hint of liquorice. Both black and white varieties actually have a mild taste, for this reason they make a perfect side dish, and as they don’t overpower dishes with their taste whilst they fell out of fashion with the public you’ll find that restaurants, and chefs, have always carried on utilising Salsify in their dishes; in fact you may not realise just how many times you’ve tried it in the past.

If you enjoy eating out you may have spotted it on a few menus, just last year Sexy Fish, in Mayfair, London, was offering salsify and bacon with miso dip, whilst J Sheekey, the iconic seafood restaurant in Covent Garden, offered a delicious sounding special of pan-fried sea bass, brown shrimp, salsify, and sea greens.

Why should you use it?

Well, its very healthy for a start. The black version contains as much potassium as a banana whilst also being rather rich in iron, copper, and protein. It’s also easy to cook and fits in with lots of different meals, it slips effortlessly into Sunday roasts making the perfect substitute for parsnips or cauliflower, and when it comes to a gratin, you’ll find it goes well paired with other root vegetables. It’s also great for creamy mashes or autumn soups. It can also be eaten raw making it a perfect grated topping for salads or coleslaws. 

Salsify is the perfect veg to use as a base for your meal, its neutral taste means that whilst it’s not a veg that can work solo it works perfectly in accompaniment of other vegetables. As such you’ll find lots of recipes for salsify with a quick search on google (for example, you can try these braised beef short ribs with salsify and bashed neeps by Chef Mark Hix), but as always, we recommend having fun and experimenting, to begin with though why not start off easily and try it with your roast dinner, or as a creamy mash.

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