Scorzonera (Black Salsify) Should be better known and grown!

This winter sees The Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Idle Rocks celebrate heritage produce in the most fitting way possible, by incorporating one of the world’s lesser-known vegetables within the hotel’s exclusive winter menu.

Scorzonera is a root vegetable seldom seen in supermarkets or on restaurant menus outside of Europe. Often known as Black Salsify, serpent root, viper’s herb and viper’s grass; Scorzonera is a real culinary delicacy, with a unique subtle flavour reminiscent of oyster and asparagus. It is notoriously hard to harvest owing to its delicate and deep, uniformed black skinned roots.
Originating in the Mediterranean, Scorzonera was foraged and used by the ancient Romans as well as the Greeks and cultivated sometime around the 1500s, where they were used for ornamental, medicinal, and culinary purposes.“Each year we always have the fun challenge of seeing who can harvest the longest Scorzonera without breaking it, as they are incredibly delicate and so deep rooted. I imagine it’s for this reason that so many people shy away from growing this wonderful root vegetable and it can be quite time consuming if you grow a lot of it like we do here at the gardens.” Nicola Bradley, Head of Productive Garden.
Scorzonera has many health benefits including the ability to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, stimulate hair growth, increase circulation, improve numerous elements of your digestive health, increase the metabolism and positively affect bone mineral density. It also contains significant amounts of fibre and is one of the best dietary sources of insulin, which reduces the concentrations of harmful bacteria in the gut and has a positive effect on the immune system.
Scorzonera roots keep well in the ground all winter long and are still good to eat right through until the beginning of spring.  Any roots left in over winter will produce tender shoots and can be cooked like asparagus and come spring the pretty yellow flowers can also be steamed and eaten.
Heligan’s Scorzonera maxima were harvested on the 21st December and is going to be part of the vegetarian dish on the Idle Rock’s winter menu. Sous Chef Samira Effa and Junior Sous Chef Lawrence Snowden have designed the dish, which will include roasted Heligan Scorzonera, mushroom tortellini, Jerusalem artichokes and kale.

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