Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Salsify: Tragopogon dubius, Tragopogon pratensis, Tragopogon porrifilius, Scorzonera hispanica
Also known as: Oyster plant, Goatsbeard, Ba Boba Sheeb Dauxa, Shepherd's Clock, Noon Flower, Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, Meadow salsify, Yellow salsify, Black salsify, Purple salsify, Star of Jerusalem, etc.
Parts Used: roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, stems (young)
Systems/Organs affected: liver, gallbladder, immune, cardiovascular, digestive
Properties: antibilious, deobstruent, aperient, fibrous, cooling, diuretic, stomachic
Salsify is a member of the Compositae family (Sunflower or Aster). It is sometimes confusing as all salsifies are used similarly but there are varying opinions about which one is best for edible purposes. It is not to be confused with Aruncus Dioicus, which is a member of the Rose family but is also referred to as goatsbeard.
Salsify (depending on the variety) is both a biennial and a perennial. It can get up to 4 feet tall, has long, grass-like leaves and a stem with a single flower on top and is similar to a dandelion when seeded out. The variety we often see here would be classified as yellow salsify (we are in the pacific northwest of the united states) because it has a daisy like flower with bracts of leaves spiking out around it. It has a long tapered root (around 8-12 inches long and 1 inch around) that needs to be in the ground at least 4 months in order to produce a decent enough size for harvesting. It can be found growing in fields, meadows, pastures, along roadsides and waste places throughout Europe, parts of Asia, Canada and the northern United States. It blooms from April to July but can sometimes be found still blooming in September. Its flower heads open in the morning hours and then close during the day; on a cloudy say or rainy day they may not open at all. There are three species of salsify (technically): two are yellow-flowered and one is purple.
Salsify comes from the Latin word 'solsequium'. 'Sol' means 'sun' and 'sequens' means 'following'. In essence, the plant follows the sun.
For centuries it has been used as both an edible and medicinal plant. The reference to oysters is believed to be from the purple variety as the root is said to taste like oysters. It is often substituted for asparagus and artichoke hearts. It has a nutty like flower and contains a high amount of the fiber inulin, making it a plant good for diabetics. (Inulin is a prebiotic type fiber that boosts the growth of bifido bacteria in the large intestines. That type of bacteria in particular helps to reduce carcinogenic enzymes in the intestines, improves immune function and helps the body excrete waste assisting with constipation).
Salsify has been used for many things in the past. A poultice of the mashed root was used for bee stings, the root tea was used for excess urination, gonorrhea, stomach pain, diarrhea, fevers, internal bleeding and to retard/stay bleeding after childbirth and as a wash for rheumatic joints.
Culpeper said that the roots were particularly good for the liver and gall bladder and would help to remove obstructions from both. The early Myddfai physicians (a small town in Wales) used it for pneumonia and fevers. They ever gave somewhat of a recipe. "Let (the patient) take, for three successive days, of the following herbs: hemlock, agrimony, herb Robert and asarabacca, then let him undergo a three day's course of aperients. When the disease is thus removed from the bronchial tubes, an emetic should be given him (daily) to the end of nine days. Afterwards let a medicine be prepared, by digesting the following herbs in wheat ale or red wine: madder, sharp dock, anise, agrimony, daisy, round birthwort, meadow sweet, yellow goat's beard, heath, water avens, wood ruff, crake berry, the corn cockle, caraway, and such other herbs as will seem good to the physician."
Culpeper also said that a decoction of the roots was good for loss of apetite, heartburn, gallstones, kidney stones and liver and/or breast issues. He stated that cooking the roots with butter (like parsnips) was good for cold, watery stomachs and helped to strengthen the weak or chronically ill. He also used the distilled water from the plant for pleurisy and side aches.
This plant has been used, also, for sore throats, tonsillitis, whooping cough, hemoptysis, nosebleeds, urinary tract infections and lung and phlegm issues in general. Also, it is said to lower blood pressure, stimulate hair growth, increase circulation, improve bone density, improve digestion and boost immunity. Black salsify, native to Spain, southern Europe and the Middle East, is said to be highly nutritive. It contains a significant amount of potassium, manganese, iron, magnesium, calcium, copper, phosphorus and the vitamins C, B5, B1, B2, folate and B6. It has a decent amount of protein also aside from its fiber content. A virtual powerhouse of nutrition. This helps to explain its benefits and use for things like blood pressure, bone structure, digestion and hair growth.
The native americans would chew the coagulated milky sap to help ease indigestion, it was also used for wounds. The Greeks and Romans would soak linen pads in the distilled juice for bleeding wounds and sores. Pliny would mix the milky juice with human milk and said it was a cure all for eye issues. The tea was also used as a lotion and/or drink to treat rabid dog bites on both humans and livestock.
All parts of the plant are edible. The stem and seed pods should be eaten young as should the leaves. The flowers can be mixed into soups or salads or sauteed like the stems and eaten like asparagus. The root can be eaten raw or cooked but should be cleaned well and the skin scraped off. The root is best eaten young as well. The root can be grated and added to salads or stews or sauteed. The seeds can be sprouted and are great with eggs.
Always consult a physician before starting an herbal regimen or formula.
As is customary with my posts I am including some links herein for your benefit. Stay strong and healthy!