Salsify, also known as the "oyster plant" or "vegetable oyster," because of its flavor, is not generally used by vegetable consumers. The plant is native to southern Europe, biennial, but grown as an annual for the roots, which may be left in the ground all winter without danger of injury from freezing. The roots are long, tapering gradually, and seldom more than 2 inches in diameter at the top. They are cooked like parsnips, used in stews and soups, and sometimes in salads.
The culture is practically the same as for parsnips. Seeds are sown in the open ground as early as possible in the spring, in rows 1 foot or more apart, and the plants thinned to 4 or 5 inches. The soil should be deep, rich and friable, sandy loams being preferred. Rigid thinning is essential to secure roots of good size. The seeds (botanically fruits) are much elongated, and for this reason difficult to sow with a drill. Market gardeners ordinarily dig some of the roots in the fall and store like parsnips. The remainder of the crop is left in the ground all winter and removed in the spring as soon as the frost is out of the ground.