Scorzonera hispanica, black salsify or Spanish salsify, also known as black oyster plant, serpent root, viper’s herb, viper’s grass or simply Scorzonera, is a perennial member of the genus Scorzonera in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), cultivated as a root vegetable in the same way as some of the members of the salsify genus Tragopogon, also in the sunflower family.
The black salsify plant has heads of yellow ray flowers. The thin black taproot grows up to one meter long and up to 2 cm in diameter. It has a black skin with white internal flesh.
The thick black skin of the salsify root is usually considered inedible and can be removed either prior to or after boiling. If the skin is removed prior to boiling, the peeled root should be immediately immersed in water mixed with vinegar or lemon juice, in order to prevent discolouring. Since the root sap is an extremely sticky latex, it is often more convenient to peel it after boiling the root for 20 to 25 minutes.
Black salsify is often eaten together with other vegetables, such as peas and carrots. But it is also popular served like asparagus in a white sauce, such as bechamel sauce or mustard sauce. Boiled salsify roots may also be coated with batter and deep fried.