logo of PROTA Prota 2: Vegetables/Légumes
Record display

Scorzonera hispanica L.

Sp. pl. 2: 791 (1753).
Asteraceae (Compositae)
Chromosome number
2n = 14, 28
Vernacular names
Scorzonera, black salsify, black oysterplant (En). Scorsonère, salsifis noir, salsifis (Fr). Escorcioneira, escorzonera (Po).
Origin and geographic distribution
Scorzonera is a native of central and southern Europe. The first reports of cultivation are from the 17th century. It is grown in temperate climates throughout the world but seldom on a commercial scale; Belgium is the biggest producer with approximately 2000 ha planted every year. Scorzonera has been introduced in the highlands of tropical Africa and has been found occasionally as an escape from cultivation. It is occasionally cultivated in DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius.
Scorzonera roots are used as a cooked vegetable. They are peeled before or after boiling. In Europe, they are among the many canned and frozen commercial vegetables (‘salsifis’ in France). Young leaves are used as a salad.
The roots have been used, like chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), as a coffee substitute. Medicinal uses as a diuretic, sudorific and depurative are reported from Spain and Portugal. A mixture of latex and milk is used as a cure for colds. Ground fresh leaves are used to soothe the pain caused by viper bites.
Scorzonera roots contain per 100 g edible portion (66%): water 83.3 g, energy 113 kJ (27 kcal), protein 1.3 g, fat 0.3 g, carbohydrate 10.2 g, Ca 42 mg, P 42 mg, Fe 0.9 mg, thiamin 0.06 mg, riboflavin 0.01 mg, niacin 0.2 mg, folate 57 μg, ascorbic acid 3 mg (Holland, B., Unwin, I.D. & Buss, D.H., 1991). The roots have a subtle, delicate, sweet flavour that many find too bland. Carbohydrate in the roots has a high proportion of inulin and laevulin, which make it an important foodstuff in diabetic diets. Scorzonera also contains conopherin, asparagine, arginine, histidine, choline and several immunomodulatory substances. The flowers have an aroma reminiscent of cocoa. Oil content of the seeds is 17.7%.
Perennial, erect, branched herb up to 130 cm tall; taproot fleshy with black-brown skin, white inside. Leaves alternate, simple, long and gradually narrowed at base, linear to lanceolate, 15–40 cm × 0.5–6 cm, apex acuminate, entire or dentate, parallel-veined. Inflorescence a terminal head; involucre 2–3 cm long. Florets with yellow ligule, sometimes purplish outside, up to twice as long as involucre. Fruit an achene up to 2 cm long, with dirty white, plumose pappus.
In Europe, uses are similar for scorzonera, Scolymus hispanica L. and Tragopogon porrifolius L., all belonging to the same family.
In its native region in Mediterranean Europe, scorzonera grows in dry pastures and thickets on rocky ground. Once established, it resists drought well.
Scorzonera is best grown on light sandy soils to encourage formation of long, smooth roots. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox and the 1000-seed weight is about 12 g. A recommended plant density is 66,000 plants per ha. In Europe sowing is done in spring, harvesting in autumn. About 9 weeks after sowing roots reach their maximum length and subsequently increase in diameter. Yields of 8 t per ha can be achieved, with individual roots of 100–200 g. Roots do not store well.
Genetic resources and breeding
Several collections are held in germplasm banks in Europe. There are several cultivars available in Europe. Research in Belgium centres on breeding, cultivar selection and control of pests, diseases and weeds. A male sterile line has been patented.
Scorzonera will remain a small-scale crop for the specialty market in urban centres. The international market is restricted to canned and frozen products as fear of soil contamination prohibits imports of fresh roots.
Major references
• CRI, 2003. Scorzonera hispanica: a European vegetable. [Internet] Broadsheet No 28. Hamilton, New Zealand. 2 pp. http://www.crop.cri.nz/psp/broadshe/PDF/028scorzonera.pdf. Accessed 19 June 2003.
• Hernández Bermejo, J.E. & León, J. (Editors), 1994. Neglected crops: 1492 from a different perspective. FAO Plant Production and Protection Series No 26. Rome, Italy. 341 pp.
• Lawalrée, A., Dethier, D. & Gilissen, E., 1986. Compositae (Première partie: sous-famille Cichorioideae). In: Bamps, P. (Editor). Flore d’Afrique centrale. Spermatophytes. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Brussels, Belgium. 72 pp.
• Moore, D., Tutin, T.G. & Walters, S.M., 1976. Compositae. In: Tutin, T.G., Heywood, V.H., Burges, N.A., Moore, D.M., Valentine, D.H., Walters, S.M. & Webb, D.A. (Editors). Flora Europaea. Volume 4. Plantaginaceae to Compositae (and Rubiaceae). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. pp. 103–410.
Other references
• Beentje, H.J., 2000. Compositae (part 1). In: Beentje, H.J. (Editor). Flora of Tropical East Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, Netherlands. pp. 1–313.
• Rubatzky, V.E. & Yamaguchi, M., 1997. World vegetables: principles, production and nutritive values. 2nd Edition. Chapman & Hall, New York, United States. 843 pp.
• van den Bergh, M.H., 1993. Minor vegetables. In: Siemonsma, J.S. & Kasem Piluek (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 8. Vegetables. Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, Netherlands. pp. 280–310.
C.H. Bosch
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

G.J.H. Grubben
Prins Hendriklaan 24, 1401 AT Bussum, Netherlands
O.A. Denton
National Horticultural Research Institute, P.M.B. 5432, Idi-Ishin, Ibadan, Nigeria
Associate Editors
C.-M. Messiaen
Bat. B 3, Résidence La Guirlande, 75, rue de Fontcarrade, 34070 Montpellier, France
R.R. Schippers
De Boeier 7, 3742 GD Baarn, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Bosch, C.H., 2004. Scorzonera hispanica L. In: Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA 2: Vegetables/Légumes. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.