Scientific Name(s): Tragopogon dubius, Tragopogon porrifolius
What: root, young leaves
How: root cooked, pickled; young leaves cooked
Where: sunny, disturbed areas, borders, fields
When: fall, winter, spring
Nutritional Value: calories, vitamin C
Dangers: don't mistake poisonous Groundsel for Salsify
Salsify flowers look like dandelion flowers but with brown markings on their stamens and several green, radial spikes.
The plants themselves grow to over two feet tall with narrow leaves partially clasping the stems.
Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Every summer I drive from Texas up to my parent's place in Minnesota and see pale, green Salsify lining the ditches the whole way. They are another "nurse plant" who's job is to rapidly expand across bare soil, covering it to keep it from being washed away in rain and adding organic matter back into the soil with its thick, long taproots. These "weeds" need full sun, even in Texas and so won't grow if shaded. Like dandelions, Salsify forms a "puffball" when it goes to seed but these puffballs are massive, being three inches across. My mom used to collect Salsify puffballs and spray paint them for use in floral arrangements.
The leaves of Salsify are used like dandelion leaves to handle their somewhat bitter flavor. The yellow flower petals have a pleasant, mild flavor similar to dandelion flowers and can be eaten raw or brewed into tea.
Salsify taproots are the best part, with Tragopogon porrifolius being preferred over Tragopogon dubius. These pale, who roots can be eaten raw or cooked like carrots. Harvest them when the above ground portion has just turned brown. These roots lose their flavor relatively soon after harvesting so use them right away.
Edible Dandelion Mimics: