Scorzonera (Scorzonera hispanica)
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The 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 sunflower family (Asteraceae), cultivated as a root vegetable in the same way as some of the members of the salsify genus Tragopogon, to which it is closely related.
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 black salsify is native to Southern Europe and the Near East. As is indicated by its binomial name, it is generally thought to have spread to the rest of Europe from Spain.The name of the genus Scorzonera probably derives from the Old French word scorzon, meaning snake. The Celtic and Germanic peoples are believed to have eaten the black salsify, which was considered efficaceous against the bubonic plague and snake bites until the 16th century. The plant was being cultivated as a vegetable in Italy and France by 1660, however, and soon after, the Belgians were growing vast fields of it.
The black salsify is considered nutritious: it contains proteins, fats, the glycosides asparagine, choline and laevulin, as well as minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and vitamins A, B1, E and C. Since it also contains the glycoside inulin, which consists of fructose, it is particularly suitable for diabetics.