LifestyleThe name scares off effectively. People avoid it, but it turns out it's a treasure trove of health

The name scares off effectively. People avoid it, but it turns out it's a treasure trove of health

Salsify is a forgotten vegetable.
Salsify is a forgotten vegetable.
Images source: © Adobe Stock

8:25 AM EDT, October 7, 2023

Black salsify, also known as viper's grass, is an incredibly interesting but forgotten vegetable. It used to be an essential element of medicinal prescriptions, and was even used as an antidote for snake bites. We remind you of why folk medicine so valued this root, which is unpopular today.

The Black Salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) is classified as a so-called heritage vegetable, meaning those that once frequently appeared in the kitchen but over time have become rarities. Black Salsify was particularly popular in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but over time was replaced by more popular root vegetables, such as carrots or celery. Today we are reminded of what lies within the black roots of the Black Salsify, especially since late fall is the best time for their harvest.

The health benefits of black salsify. What did folk medicine appreciate it for?

There's a reason why black salsify garnered interest centuries ago. The medicinal properties of both the root itself and the decoction made from it were known even then, and now numerous studies confirm them. Black salsify exhibits expectorant and diaphoretic properties. It helps get rid of wet coughs and contributes to lowering body temperature. Moreover, it acts as a diuretic, supports the treatment of urinary bladder inflammation, and aids the process of cleansing the body of toxins. What's more, viper's grass improves digestion, positively affects the intestinal flora, and boosts immunity.

The root of black salsify is also rich in vitamins B1, B2, C, and E, as well as potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron, phosphorus, and calcium, carotenoids and fructose. Black salsify is naturally high in inulin, a type of carbohydrate found in vegetables and fruits. Inulin lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, regulates digestive system function, has anti-inflammatory effects, benefits the stomach, lowers blood glucose levels after meals, facilitates weight loss by increasing a sense of fullness, and improves the absorption of minerals. An interesting fact is that black salsify was once used as a remedy for snake bites (hence the name viper's grass).

Black salsify looks and tastes like asparagus.
Black salsify looks and tastes like asparagus.© Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0 by Frumpy

Black salsify - how to eat and where to buy?

The edible part of salsify is a root with a dark brown skin and white interior (it tastes like asparagus, hence its other name - "winter asparagus"). While peeling the root, it exudes a sticky, milky sap, and the skin can stain your hands a red-brown color, so it is recommended to use protective gloves. To maintain the freshness of the roots, they should be immediately immersed in water with lemon juice.

Scorzonera can be found in health food stores. It's best to cook the roots in slightly acidified, salted and sweetened water for about thirty minutes. The vegetable can be served similarly to asparagus. Popular preparation methods are baking it with béchamel sauce, frying in butter with bread crumbs, or baking in an oven with garlic sauce.

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