The Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) is in flower at the allotment, and very pretty it is too, though you have to catch it in the morning as the flowers close up by about 1pm.
Salsify is a biennial vegetable. Sown in April or May, the plant forms thin, grass-like leaves in its first year and its roots can be harvested throughout the winter. Any plants that aren’t dug up go on to flower in the following late May or early June. After the flowers the plant has seedheads like a bigger dandelion clock and mobile seeds that float on the breeze until they land in a new growing site. Salsify grows well on the sandy loam on my allotment.
Salsify is also known as Oyster Plant or Vegetable Oyster because of the supposed similarity between the taste of the root and oysters. The roots are peeled before use in a number of different recipes, such as these on the BBC Food and Guardian websites. Peeling is quite messy as the roots are usually forked and contain a white latex that bleeds from the root onto your hands and the vegetable peeler.(According to Wikipedia, the latex can be made into a chewing gum, if you have the inclination to do this.)
The roots of Salsify contain the polysaccharide inulin, which is also found in Jerusalem Artichoke roots. Inulin is a low calorie carbohydrate and is suitable for diabetics, but it can cause bloating when eaten in large quantities. A typical serving of Jerusalem Artichokes is enough to cause discomfort but a serving of Salsify is much smaller in quantity and I find there are no side effects.
Salsify buds are tasty and the flowers are edible too, and are very attractive in a mixed salad.
Salsify is a native of the Mediterranean region but it is naturalised in the UK. I have seen it growing on road verges near Stalham and Happisburgh in Norfolk.