The first time farmers Jeff Bialas and Adina Bialas tried salsify, it was wrapped in prosciutto, dipped in sesame seeds, and deep fried. Adina explained that they could still taste the “earthy but mild” flavor of the root vegetable, and the two became such immediate fans of salsify that they decided then and there to try and grow it.
“We’d never had it before,” admitted Adina. “It was just very unique and different and delicious. And we thought, oh, let’s try that.” She added that the ability to experiment is one of their favorite aspects of farming.
The inspiration paid off and, this year, the Bialases harvested a small but substantial crop of salsify at J&A Farm in Goshen, New York, where they grow 12 acres of mixed vegetables. (The farm even has its own theme song, which was created by a singer-songwriter Allyson Johnson and pianist Lafayetter Harris, Jr.)
Jeff described salsify as “parsnip’s ugly cousin,” but said that it adds an important element of variety to his later-fall offerings at the farmers market. The root vegetable tastes like an artichoke or sunchoke, which is an easy selling point for some of J&A Farm’s customers. Jeff said that he made small bunches of the roots, so more people would be willing to try cooking with it. Once they had, many quickly became converts.
“We ended up selling out of the entire crop by a little after Thanksgiving...which was unexpected,” said Jeff, who planted two 500-feet long rows of the vegetables this past year. He planted the salsify with carrots and parsnips since they are all long-season crops. “We plant it end of April, early May, and we don’t harvest ‘til after Labor Day, ‘til around the first frost, almost October,” he added.
(Photo: Adina and Jeff Bialas in warmer times/J&A Farm)
All that growing time pays off, though. The vegetable is easy to prepare and Jeff said that the skin can just be scrapped off with the back of a knife. After being cut, it does need to be dropped into acidified water to keep it from oxidizing and darkening.
The Bialases generally prefer simple preparation methods for the homely-looking root. “We tend to prefer a moist preparation, so…the first time we made it we boiled it in salted water,” Adina said. “I think it took about 10 minutes, cut it up and just tossed it with a little bit of butter and it was delicious like that.”
Below, try J&A Farm’s simple recipe for salsify with pasta and lemon parsley sauce.
Simple Salsify with Pasta and Lemon Parsley Sauce
courtesy of J&A Farm, Goshen NY
- 1 pound salsify
- 1/4 cup chopped shallots
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped parsley (depending on your taste)
- 1 pound bow tie pasta (or any type you prefer)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and thinly slice salsify. Simmer salsify in water or stock until barely tender. Drain salsify and add to hot saute pan with butter and shallots. Saute over medium/high heat until shallots and salsify are fully tender. Wisk together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook pasta to al dente, drain when done, reserving approximately 1 cup pasta water. Toss dressing and salsify mixture with hot pasta, and some of the reserved hot pasta cooking water to finish the dish. Serve warm, enjoy.