Black salsify is native to Southern Europe and the Near East. As is indicated by its binomial name, it is generally thought to have spread to the rest of Europe from Spain, but the first mention of the vegetable by a Western writer came from Leonhard Rauwolf, who reported seeing scorzonera at the market of Aleppo in Syria, in 1575. There was a widespread belief that the plant makes a good antidote against bites of venomous snakes. Based on this, it was often claimed that the name scorzonera derives from the Old French word scorzon meaning snake (or “adder” to be exact). The most likely etymological root, though, is the Catalan word escurçonera, deriving from escurçó (viper), where the suffix -nera conveys an association or use with regards to vipers. Scorzonera must be an italian transliteration of escurçonera, explained by the long Catalan presence in Sardinia and southern Italy, influencing local languages between the 14th and 18th centuries. Less likely, the name might derive from Italian scorza negra meaning “black bark”/”black peel”, after the dark brown to black skin of the root. The Celtic and Germanic peoples are believed to have eaten the black salsify, which was considered efficacious against the bubonic plague and snake bites until the 16th century. The plant was being cultivated as a vegetable in Italy and France by 1660 and, soon after, vast fields were grown of it in what is now Belgium.