Have You Tried Salsify Buds?


The story of how I came to eat salsify (Tragopogon spp.) buds is nearly identical to that of how I learned to eat burdock stalks. Like burdock, salsify is a plant best known for having an edible root. For years, I extracted spindly little salsify roots from our hard clay soil and was reluctant to admit that I didn't much enjoy them. It wasn't until rereading Sam Thayer's Nature's Garden that it clicked that all parts of salsify are edible so long as they are tender, and that the flower buds offer a nice bite of food that is no trouble to harvest.

How to Identify and Harvest Salsify Buds

Salsify root is best picked early in the year, while all of the plant's energy is still stored in the root. However, for the novice, identifying the new spring growth of salsify can be a difficult task as it looks much like tufts of grass. (If you can identify them, take advantage of early growth). On the other hand, salsify buds are picked when the plant is showing its easily recognized yellow (or sometimes purple) flowers and/or globe-like seed heads that call to mind giant dandelions. Another identifying characteristic of salsify is its latex, which appears white like school glue, and can leave a brown stain on your hands.

Full of seeds, too late to eat.
There are three things to look for when harvesting salsify buds. First, make sure you have a flower which has yet to open. Once the plant has flowered, but before the full seed head emerges, the closed flower can look similar to a bud but be filled with papus and achenes. If in doubt, you can peek inside to see if you spot petals or dry fluff.

Secondly, select tender salsify buds. As with most things, I use my thumbnail to test for tenderness. If I can easily pinch off the bud with my thumbnail, I know it will be tender enough to eat. If my nail meets resistance when I try to pop off the bud, it's best left behind.

Finally, make certain your salsify buds haven't been bugged out. Around here, salsify buds can be infested with a small black bug, and those are ones I choose not to eat. I tried to on one occasion, but soaking them in vinegar water and cleaning them of bugs was more work than it was worth.

Aside from ease of harvest, one of the other great advantages of salsify buds is that they can be found later into the growing season than one might expect. If you discover a big patch of salsify, it never hurts to look lower down on the plant for newly emerging buds. Even now, at the end of July, I can still get at least a handful every time I go out. Wild Food Girl reports salsify buds are prime in the mountains at the moment, though you may face competition for them from deer.

To harvest salsify buds, simply cut the entire bud, along with its accompanying leaves and peduncle  from the main plant stem. All of these parts are edible. From the outside, I think salsify buds resemble tiny ears of corn.

Cooking with Salsify Buds


Salsify buds need only a brief boiling of 2-5 minutes in water before they are cooked-through and ready to be used in any number of ways. Their mild faintly sweet green flavor makes them a natural in just about anything you'd want to cook. I'm particularly fond of eating them simply as a side dish, or tucked into an omelet.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this useful post. I definitely use the "peek inside" method. If I see yellow, I take the bud. And I take a section of the bud's attached stem too, as long as it's still soft. It's been raining for a couple days now and there's a new salsify crop of buds for the gathering here at 10,000 feet in Colorado's High Country.

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  2. I live in wyoming, just moved into my first house and my back yard garden is very sickly, after it seemed like I was probably not going to get a good harvest I began reworking the soil and looking for plants that will probably do well with my busy schedule, heat, and forgetfulness to water. I came up with salsify, Jerusulum artichoke and Malabar spinach. (as well as the dandilions and lambsquarters that are already there).... standing out there one afternoon trying to admire my pathetic attempt at self sustainence I thought, hmmm... looks like whatever was planted in that flower bed has spread around the yard. I pulled a few out of the grass that weren't in particularly asthetically pleasing locations and thought that looks like salsify root. I took a little nibble... that tastes like salsify root. Since I'm not particularly familiar with salsify I started looking around to verify its actually salsify (before I feed it to my family and all, you can be sure my east-coach-beach-town-wife is COMPLETELY on board with eating weeds o_o) came across your blog here, appreciate it, aaaand thats my story. Aparently I don't have to plant salsify in my garden... I just have to harvest it. :-)

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    Replies
    1. I love harvesting volunteer plants: black salsify, henbit, shepard's purse, mallow, pineapple weed, purslane, and sweet rocket have all volunteered into harvestable amounts in less than 2 years (my first house too - also in disrepair) in my hot, dry eastern Washington summer climate (avg. less than 0.7" rain per month, Jul-Sept). I plan on planting some sempervivans (hens+chicks) near the driest bare spots soon. A large patch of miner's lettuce appeared this spring, but has already gone to seed and died due to an early heat wave and lack of steady precipitation. I'm hoping to move some of the seeds to the cooler shady north side of the house for next year. Miner's lettuce (like purslane) is really succulent and delicious in salads, plus cold-hardy (unlike purslane).
      In case you haven't seen this resource yet: http://www.ediblewildfood.com/edible-weeds.aspx

      I'm excited to try maple seeds this year (I previously had no idea they were edible) and I'm already craving mahonia berries (which are not yet ripe in my area).

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