Salsify and its more common partner in crime, black salsify or scorzonera are not a well known vegetables outside of continental western and central Europe. Their popularity is spreading though, if you look carefully you’ll see that they are starting to crop up more and more in farmers’ markets and veg boxes in the UK, and I have even heard anecdotally that their availability is spreading to North America. If you’ve never tried it, do your best to source some; now is the perfect time. If I tell you that black salsify is often referred to as the oyster plant, it may go some way to describing the wonderfully mild and delicate flavour these roots have, and what you’re missing out on. Don’t be put off by the long, knobbly witch-like fingers these veggies appear to be; once you’ve tasted them you won’t look back.
I’m always happy when this time of year comes around and I see the first of those fingers peeking out of the veg box, because aside from the great taste, salsify is unbelievably good for you. Firstly, just one serving will provide 20% of your daily fibre needs, most of it coming from the fibre inulin which also acts as a prebiotic and keeps that good bacteria flourishing in your gut and, along with its good vitamin C levels, so boosting your winter worn immune system. But the benefits don’t stop there. Salsify is chock full of calcium, manganese and magnesium helping to build strong bones, potassium to help lower blood pressure and copper and iron for healthy circulation, healthy skin and even healthy hair. Sounds unbelievable but it’s true, its beneficial effects on circulation has been shown to help stimulate hair regrowth and it has been suggested that it could even help prevent prematurely greying hair. Possibly not enough to help me by counteracting the effects of four children, but don’t let that put you off.
This recipe really helps make the most of the salsify, by topping it up with other root veg, and combining it with that perfect pairing of a ham bone broth and some deliciously creamy beans. Give it a try, it is the ultimate in healthy comfort food and will make you a convert; eagerly awaiting the next salsify season just like the rest of us.
Salsify and Bean Soup with Ham Hock
one organic ham hock (ask your butcher for this- it is from the ankle of the pig and a very economical cut)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 leek, sliced
4 carrots, diced
6 salsify, sliced (when you peel the salsify, remember to keep covered in water until you are ready to use it, it does turn black if you don’t)
2 or 3 (depending on your taste) 400g tins of beans. Use whatever you fancy here, I used haricots and flageolets purely because that’s what I had, but pinto, borlotti, butter and cannellini would all be good here.
Salt and pepper
A large bunch of flat leaved parsley or coriander (your choice)
Firstly, cover the ham hock in cold water and bring to the boil. Let simmer for around 2 hours. Remove the ham from the pan, then turn up the heat and reduce the liquid down by about a quarter. Leave overnight to cool, if possible as it makes it a whole lot easier to remove the fat. If not, get busy with a spoon and scoop the fat off the surface of the stock. Don’t chuck it away though, keep it in the fridge for your roast potatoes next time.
To make the soup, simply bring the stock back to the boil and chuck all the veggies in apart from the beans. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, then remove from the heat. Take about a third of the liquid out of the pan and blitz in a blender or with a hand held blender, then return to the pan.
Remove the skin and fat from the ham hock and rip the meat roughly up.
Add the beans to the soup and bring to the boil again then simmer for ten minutes or so. Add your reserved meat, and once that has reheated through, check your seasoning and you are ready to serve.
Sprinkle over your chopped herbs and tuck in. Enjoy!