Lets Celebrate Celeriac
Whether you call it celeriac or celery root, this member if the Apiaceae family (carrot family) is quite the distinctive looking tuber. Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum) is the variety of the celery plant that is cultivated for its roots as opposed to its stalks, as is the plant we often just call celery. In fact, unlike stalk celery, celeriac’s stalks and petioles are inedible.
Celeriac was cultivated from the same wild species as stalk celery and was used for medicinal and religious purposes in early Greek, Italian, and Egyptian civilizations. From here it spread to Europe in the Middle Ages, eventually finding a home in many French dishes. By the 19th century celeriac became a unique and novel vegetable in U.S.
This cool season biennial is grown for its crisp celery flavored root and because it is actually easier to grow than stalk celery. It is easier to grow than celery because, while it does prefer fertile soil, high in organic matter with a pH 6.0 – 7.0, celeriac will tolerate less than ideal conditions and is more frost tolerant than celery. However, just like celery, celeriac needs adequate and consistent moisture and prefers full sun.
When sowing celeriac, begin seeds indoors at least 10 weeks before the last expected frost date. Celeriac will require a long growing season with harvest typically 90-120 days after planting. When you plant your celeriac seeds don’t plant too deeply, as celeriac seeds need light to germinate. You should see the first signs of life 2-3 weeks after planting. Celeriac seedlings should be planted outdoors 2 weeks prior to the last expected frost date, because as mentioned before, they are somewhat frost tolerant. Seedlings should be planted 6-8” apart.
Pests and Problems
As your celeriac grows watch out for pests and disease. Celery leaf spot can plague your celeriac. To reduce the possibility of this fungus afflicting your plants rotate your garden crops and don’t water celeriac late in the day. If celery leaf miners attack your plants pinch off the affected leaves. To prevent their infestation cover your celeriac with horticultural fleece or mesh. The greatest threat to look out for is snails and slugs. These slimy little critters love to feed on young seedlings. To keep them off you plant, again don’t water late in the day, and use soaker hoses when you do water. Also sprinkling your soil with diatomaceous earth can curb your slug and snail problem. The most adorable way you can control your problem with snails and slugs may just be by using ducks to feed on them. If you have the ability to keep these cute quackers, use them to your advantage and have them chow down on those slimy pests.
One cup (156g) of raw celeriac offers 66 calories, 0 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 14 grams of carbohydrates (3g of which is dietary fiber). Celeriac is an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, and phosphorus and is a good source of Vitamin B-6, manganese, and potassium. Celeriac also offers us a dose of all the other B Vitamins (except B-12), as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium. While celeriac is a root vegetable, unlike many other root vegetables, celeriac is considered “low carb” because it doesn’t store large amounts of starch. Due to this fact, it is sometimes used in place of other starchy root vegetables in those following a low carb diet.
Like much of the produce we grow, celeriac can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on preference. However, it does have a tough, rutty surface that will need to be trimmed off before consuming. Due to celeriac’s versatile texture and mild, pleasant celery-like taste, it is often used in soups and stews or can be treated like a potato. Many recipes incorporate celeriac in place of potatoes because it’s easily mashed and fits well into casseroles, gratins, and can be roasted. One beautiful dish I like to put celeriac into is the following dauphinoise.
1 celeriac, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400°F
Place all ingredients except the cheese into a large saucepan
Heat until the mixture begins to boil
Pour the celeriac mixture into a 9×9 greased glass dish
Sprinkle cheese on top of the mixture
Bake for 15 minutes or until top is golden-brown and celeriac is soft when pierced with a fork
Plate and serve while still warm
This dish is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So whenever you are in the mood for some delicious celeriac, this recipe will be just right!
Celeriac may look a bit odd and get confused with stalk celery, but this unique tuber is versatile and delicious. It grows well in your garden and may just be your ducks best friend. So when you are looking for a hearty root vegetable to grace your garden and dinner plate, look no farther than the magnificent and charming celeriac, and grow on!
Choose My Plate.gov. US Department of Agriculture. SuperTracker. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/tools-supertracker
Cornell University. 2006. Cornell University. Growing Guide. Celeriac. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene810e.html
New England Vegetable Management Guide. 2017 University of Massachusetts Amherst. Celery and Celeriac. https://nevegetable.org/crops/celery-and-celeriac