Black Salsify (Scorzonera hispanica L.)

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Family – Asteraceae (Compositae) 

General knowledge 

The black salsify is widespread in southern and south-eastern Europe, western Asia, and America. It grows in grasslands, steppes, shrubs, and mountains. It is cultivated as a medicinal and herbaceous plant in England, France, Germany, Spain, the USA, and Brazil. It was widely used for medicinal purposes in the Middle Ages.

Botanical description 

Black salsify is a perennial herbaceous plant. The root is 3- 4 cm thick, fleshy, and reaches 30-35 cm in length in loose soils. The stem is erect, branched at the top, and up to 75 cm tall. Leaves ovate-lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate. The flowers are yellow, with a pleasant vanilla scent, and form a single raceme at the top of the stem and the ends of the branches. The flowers open early in the morning and close at midday. The fruit is a white shell. 

Cultivation and preparation 

Propagation is by seeds sown immediately after collection or in early spring. In the first year, a rosette of basal leaves and a fleshy root are formed. 

The following year it flowers and produces seeds. The seeds mature between June and July. 

The roots of the yellows are used and are dug in the first year. The roots are carefully pulled out of the ground to prevent the milky juice from oozing out, otherwise, the root loses its flavor and rots. The leaves are cut off and the roots are lightly dried. The roots can be dug in early spring and used immediately for food. 

Active ingredients 

The roots of the black salsify contain up to 2% polysaccharides, mainly inulin, up to 0.5% fat, nitrogenous compounds, carotene, vitamins C, E, PP, B, and many minerals. 

Therapeutic effects 

The roots of the black salsify contain valuable substances that are easily absorbed by the body and are therefore recommended for use in dietary dishes for gastrointestinal disorders. The roots are useful in diabetes. The inulin in the roots is used as a sugar substitute. The roots are also used in heart and nervous diseases. In the past, it was used against plague and snake bites. 

Uses for spices 

Dried black salsify roots are used in soup seasoning mixes, soups, sauces, and garnishes. Individual dishes are also made from the roots. The juice is very mild and pleasant-tasting and is considered a delicacy in winter. After peeling off the skin and soaking in water, the roots are eaten boiled or fried in oil with breadcrumbs. The green leaves are suitable for salads. 

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