CGN black salsify collection

Black salsify is a so-called forgotten vegetable. Before World War II, black salsify was a common vegetable in The Netherlands but became unpopular afterwards due to the way of preparation. It is a dirty job to prepare the vegetable because of the sticky juice which appears with pealing. It was for historical-cultural reasons that CGN started to establish a collection of (black) salsify.


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).


Germination thresholds for uptake of black salsify in the collection are 80% for cultivated material and 60% for accessions of wild species. Salsify is a biannual cross-fertilising crop. This means that only second year plants will produce flowers. The seed production is taking place under outside conditions in isolation plots.

To regenerate black salsify, seeds are sown in April in sowing trays in the greenhouse. After five weeks the plants are transplanted in the field. The first year most of them will not flower, so there is no need to isolate them. In November the roots are harvested and stored at 4 °C. In March of the second year, the roots are planted again in isolated plots at least 50 meters apart. Triticale is normally used as an isolation crop. On a minimum number of 30 plants seeds are produced. In June the first seeds can be harvested but seed production can take place until October. More details about the CGN regeneration procedures for black salsify can be found through the link on this page.


Since 2010 CGN has built a black salsify collection and this started with the acquisition of the accessions available in European genebanks and working collections of several companies.

This resulted in the acquisition of 15 Dutch varieties, seven varieties from Belgium and some other varieties from various Eastern European countries. In 2014 and 2015 a few accessions of Scorzonera, Tragopogon porrifolius ssp. porrifolius were also collected in the Netherlands. After successful regeneration, the material will also be publicly available. All together the collection currently consists of 34 accessions.

Characterisation and evaluation

Part of the accessions have been characterised for a maximum of 12 phenotypic traits. For most of the accessions, pictures of flowers and roots are available through the “on-line search” facility. Evaluation trials have not been organised yet.