Wandering through the market, I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted what appear to be bundles of fat, earthy twigs. A root vegetable that has been cultivated in France and Italy since the 16th Century but is out of fashion so tricky to find; salsify, also known as oyster plant or vegetable oyster. Wild salsify can be found in Mediterranean regions but there are two cultivated varieties: one that is white and thick with rootlets and the other is black with a long tapering stem and no roots and in season from October to January.


As always with something unusual, the dilemma is what to serve it with and more importantly, how to prepare it. Salsify is a pretty name for a vegetable that perhaps not everyone would find an immediate attraction towards, but its delicate flavour is quite delicious. The key point is that once peeled, the inner flesh must be plunged into water with a little lemon juice in order to keep its tender, creamy colour.


It is a versatile vegetable that can be treated in a similar way to parsnips or carrots: baked, braised, steamed, soup though I thoroughly recommend mashing together with a knob of butter, a spoonful of crème fraiche, freshly grated Parmesan and finally, a sprinkle of sea salt and white pepper.