Salsify in full dandelion mode
There is a profusion of dandelion-like seed globes in the fields and meadows of the high country in Colorado these days. The increased numbers seem to have accompanied the heavy dose of rain that has arrived nearly daily on the Front Range. The flower, which in the Sunflower family, is known by several names, including Western Goat’s Beard, Salsify, Wild Oysterplant, Johnnie-Go-To-Bed-At-Noon, and Tragopogon dubius.
The plant opens its flowerhead in the morning and closes up before the heat of the day. We spotted lots of them flowering and going to seed on the Flagstaff Trail outside of Boulder this summer and they ranged in color from yellow flowers to pink and gray/white globes, as they were going to seed. The seeds seem hardier than dandelions, as they were not immediately crushed by the pelting rain and hail. The globes seem to last for weeks, before the perfect wind arrives to send the seeds aloft.
According to various sources, the Salsify is not native to North America. It was introduced to our continent from Central Europe and Western Asia. In the fall and spring the plant is harvested like a carrot and used in salads and dishes. Salsify is known for its subtle, distinct flavor, that can be easily overwhelmed in soups and stews, so it is often served with lemon water alone with some butter and olive oil.
Salsify sounds like the name of a Spanish dance exercise to loosen up your hips. Add some chips and dip, and you are good to go. It has been used for many medicinal remedies in the past. Practitioners have ground the roots of the plant into a poultice placed on bee stings. The root is also popular as a remedy to stomach pain, diarrhea, excess urination, gonorrhea, internal bleeding and as a wash for rheumatic joints.
The purple version of the Salsify is all over northern Spain, which is along the paths of the Camino. Whatever the color, it is a fun flower to know and enjoy…may have to eat it sometime.