The genus Scorzonera comprises around 175 species and black salsify is the only cultivated species in this genus.

Black salsify is native to Southern Europe and the Near East. The vegetable has been cultivated since the 17th century in Western Europe. At present Belgium is the country with the largest acreage of black salsify. A limited number of varieties do exist in the Netherlands but breeding of commercial cultivars never took place. As a consequence the CGN black salsify collection is small. Black salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) is believed to be the successor of another forgotten vegetable, called salsify or in Dutch “blauwe morgenster” (Tragopogon porrifolius ssp. porrifolius).