Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our Latest Local Find: Scorzonera

I've been wanting to try black salsify (also called scorzonera) for quite a long time. I'd read about it; but, I could never seem to find it locally. Fortunately for me, the folks over at LotFotL decided to grow it and tuck it into our weekly CSA share. I really could have hugged them!

These long, black-skinned roots look like sticks. They don't look terribly edible. In fact, often they're slimy on the outside, with an only slightly more attractive creamy-colored interior. I've always heard that the name for scorzonera comes from the Italian words "scorza" (bark) and "nera" (black). But, I heard someone suggest recently that the name originates from the Spanish "scurzo," which is the term for a venomous toad or lizard. I won't argue with the latter since I know that, in ancient times, it was often known as "viper’s grass" for its supposed ability to fight venom.

Since this vegetable was new to the both of us, we decided on a simple preparation -- roasted with a bit of butter, and tossed with a local Wisconsin parmesan cheese. Seemed like it would showcase the roots nicely -- and it really did. I read somewhere that scorzonera has an affinity for mushrooms, so I also threw some sauteed shiitakes that we got from a local mushroom farm into the mix.

The verdict: We both loved the scorzonera. The flavor was subtle -- sweet and faintly reminiscent of artichokes. I didn't pick up on the oyster flavor that sometimes gets this plant the nickname "oyster plant," but it could have been that I was concentrating too intently on the lovely marriage between the earthy mushrooms and the delicious root vegetable. The veg also played nicely with the parmesan -- the saltiness of which brought out the sweetness of the dish even more.

Oh. One more thing. Like its distant relative, Jerusalem artichokes, scorzonera contains something called inulin. If you're familiar with inulin, you'll know that it's good for you (and it's popping up now in yogurt as a way to up your daily fiber content). But, you might also know that it has earned the Jerusalem artichoke the nickname "fartichokes". With the exception of stating that you've been warned, we have no comment.

Scorzonera and Shiitake Mushrooms

8 comments:

  1. yep, it's safe to say i've never, ever heard of this, but i know about inulin, and i know it can be pretty powerful... :)

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  2. Ok, put this in the "I learned something new today" column!

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  3. Never heard of this one, how cool. I would love to try it someday.

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  4. Interesting! I've never heard of scorzonera. It sounds good.

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  5. Cool - a veggie that I have never heard of. Awesome!

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  6. Intriguing. I've never heard of black salsify before, so thanks for sharing. It almost looks like burdock root or gobo.

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  7. Where is the local mushroom farm. I live in SE Wisconsin and would love to get local mushrooms. Thanks!

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  8. Laura - I'm not sure what the name of the farm is that grows the mushrooms. But, we get all sorts of locally grown mushrooms (including morels in the spring) from Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee.

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