Greetings Grow Appalachians! Holly the VISTA reporting on this October afternoon. Is it really almost November? It seems as if it was just yesterday that I was attempting to singlehandedly keep two University of Kentucky biology lab courses afloat…and now here I am, honing in on month 2 of my VISTA term here at the GA mothership.  What an exciting time it has been so far!  I’ve traveled to the far reaches of Clay County, rural Fayette County, and southwest Virginia, taken more than a few pictures on our new camera, reached the halfway-ish point of Master Gardener, fully savored the fine art of not having to drive to work every day, dabbled into a bit of grant writing/editing, and have become the resident barista at GA HQ.  It sounds really cheesy, but I didn’t anticipate enjoying this as much as I am.  There is always something different, and I am constantly learning new things.  And while we’re on the subject of new things…let’s talk about salsify!

I can hear many of you asking: What the heck is salsify? I first heard about this peculiarity about six weeks ago.  Before I continue, a bit of background: For those of you who don’t know me, I am a BIG Lord of the Rings fan.  December 17th can’t get here soon enough (that’s when the last Hobbit movie is released)!  Take me to the Shire any day of the week!  Anyway, I was preparing for a long-anticipated weekend getaway to the Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, KY, which plays host to a once-every-three-years, four-day event in September dedicated to all things Tolkien!  My budgetary restraints kept me from the entire four days, so it was just a day pass for me, but still- it was absolutely magnificent and glorious and I just had the best time!

See? I WAS there!

See? I WAS there!

In preparation for this event, I kept hearing of this all-elusive salsify, namely on extensive Facebook forums.  “Is it going to be on the menu?” one asked.  “Please serve salsify!” many clamored.  In my confusion and/or possible delirious excitement for the weekend to come, I asked what many of you are probably still asking…”What the heck is salsify?”

Salsify is a root vegetable that is, what I’ve read/heard, a skinnier version of a parsnip.  It’s marketed as the “vegetable oyster” or the “oyster plant” because it has a flavor that resembles oysters (I’m getting hungry just typing this!).

Photos courtesy of

Perhaps I may have whet your appetites a bit…or it could still just be me.  Now that you know a wee bit more about this thing they call salsify, many of you may now be asking “Well gee, this looks dandy, but what the heck do you do with it?”  After doing a bit of my own digging, I realized that there are several methods in cooking this rooted concoction.  I came across an article published in January titled “What the Heck is Salsify, and How Do You Cook It?”  You can essentially do anything with it: boil it, steam it, mash it like potatoes, or fry it, and it can also be added to soups or stews, or served as a side dish like potatoes au gratin.  The leaves are also edible, resembling a leek.  For more information, you can read the full article here.  Here is another tidbit from BBC Good Food, which also carries suggestions of recipes it can be added to.  In terms of growing salsify, I’m afraid my knowledge is limited in this capacity.  However, I came across this and there is a good bit of information, some of which I have already covered.

So now that you are slightly information overloaded, I will continue my brief salsify experience: It was the last night of our Tolkien-esque gathering and we were awaiting our dinner; part of this said dinner included salsify.  This particular salsify was made in a dish, as mentioned earlier, similar to potatoes au gratin- you can find the full recipe here (I’m just going to pretend that I didn’t see the link in which you can purchase it straight from the Shaker Village’s online store.  It’s canned though.  I really don’t care…).  Let me tell you folks: It was the most wonderful dish I have eaten in a while- the flavor was to die for, although I don’t think it was much like oysters, but it was still so, so tasty!!  Added bonus- so creamy and comforting!  I went back for seconds…….maybe even thirds.  Between the hundred or odd so folks present at this event, it did not last long.   If you are in the market for something new to incorporate into your own garden, and have a bit of patience to spare, I give this a hearty recommendation!  You can find salsify seeds from essentially any heirloom carrier (remember the newsletter’s recommendations??), but I’ll give you this site here as a starting point!

Now I may have to do some gentle prodding to get it grown at the GA mothership garden.  Hmm…stay tuned!  Side note: For those wondering, yes, I am going back in 2017, and I will be going the entire four days!  When there’s a will, there’s a way.

It's not the prettiest, but mark my word! It is tasty!

It’s not the prettiest, but mark my word! It is tasty! (Photo courtesy of BBC)