These members of the lettuce family are actually root crops, with long taproots that hide creamy flesh under knobbly skin. If left to flower, they also have beautiful blooms that are loved by bees.
Growing calendar
Sow outdoors Apr
Harvest Oct - mid Feb

Both salsify (pictured) and scorzonera need plenty of sun to produce decent roots. Salsify looks like a small parsnip and tastes like artichoke hearts or asparagus. Scorzonera has a similar but deeper flavour and black skin.

How to grow salsify and scorzonera

Regularly sow salsify and scorzonera seed 1cm deep outdoors from April, placing three seeds every 15cm. Sow in rows 20-30cm apart. Thin to leave the strongest plant. If you want longer roots, sow in deep soil.

They can take a little while to germinate so be patient. Water in dry weather for steady growth and carefully remove weeds by hand. Avoid damaging the roots as that may cause them to divide or 'fork'.

Scorzonera is a perennial so will come back every year.

Harvesting salsify and scorzonera

Dig up salsify and scorzonera as needed from autumn. You can also leave them in the soil over winter and harvest in the spring. Like parsnips they are said to get better with frost. Dig up carefully as the roots are easily broken.

Both salsify and scorzonera need to be peeled before use as the skin can be tough and hairy. Scorzonera can exude a sap, so is best peeled after part cooking. They are both lovely roasted or mashed.

The young spring shoots, which look like blades of grass, are also edible.

Growing notes
Difficulty Easy
Germination time 12-16 days
Average time to harvest From 20 weeks
Equipment needed None
Average plant size 30cm tall, 10cm wide
Family group Asteraceae: eg lettuce, chicory
Key nutritional content Fibre, folate
Seed saving notes Biennial, needs isolation