This year in an attempt to expand our fall/winter garden harvests and experiment with new foods I planted salsify and burdock root. I’m glad I did because the parsnip seed I planted and relied on for winter roots the last two seasons failed to germinate this year. It was a good lesson in seed vitality. I learned that seeds like parsnip and rutabaga have a shorter seed life than most other foods I grow. In the future, I’ll make sure I don’t use seed that is more than two years old if I want to grow parsnips and rutabagas in my fall and winter garden (which I do).
Anyway, since I took a risk planting seeds for foods I hadn’t tried before, and they grew well, we have lots to choose from in the garden even though the rutabagas were a total failure and only a couple parsnip seeds germinated.
Salsify is a root similar to a parsnip, but with a more mild taste. I’d read it is known as the “oyster vegetable” because it tastes similar to an oyster, but I didn’t find that to be true. I’d also read it tastes faintly like an artichoke heart, and that seems like a more accurate description.
This is what it looked like when I harvested it out of the garden.
I knew I wanted to roast the salsify roots based on this recipe and wrap them in the home-cured pancetta we’d made this fall. That recipe may have even been the reason I ordered salsify seeds in the first place. All year long I bookmark and flag recipes I want to cook with our garden produce. Often it is these recipes, and the promise of good food on our plates, that provide the motivation to grow our vegetables.
The pancetta we made turned out really well! I’m realizing we’d never had good pancetta before now, but our home-made pancetta is flavorful, salty and delicious. It paired perfectly with the mild salsify.
I wrapped a small piece of thinly sliced pancetta around each salsify root and roasted them until the roots were tender and the pancetta was crisp.
Unfortunately, this was all the salsify we grew this year so one harvest equaled one meal. I’d like to try growing it again next year because I like having a diverse array of crops to chose from throughout the darkest days of winter. The burdock I mentioned earlier is still in the fridge, but will hopefully make it onto our menu this week.