How to grow and enjoy celeriac (AKA celery root)
If celeriac hasn’t yet found its way into your garden plot, make next year the year. This surprisingly tasty, bulbous root can be eaten fresh in salads, or cooked and used in soups and stews.
Softball sized and looking like a lumpy chunk of tree bark, celeriac, also called celery root, isn’t very pretty. But what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in flavor. Covered in gnarled and knobby skin, the flesh of celeriac is pure white, meaty, crisp and delicious. Right now is prime-time for celeriac harvests. It makes a flavorful addition to root vegetable stews and makes a creamy puree to accompany pork or beef dishes.
Get an early start
If you’d like to grow celeriac in your garden next season, the most important thing to remember is that it requires a very long growing season. From the time you plant the seeds until the day you make the harvest, upwards of 110 to 120 days will pass.
To grow celeriac, plant seeds indoors, under lights, in late winter. You can start the seeds around the same time you start broccoli and cabbage plants.
Young celeriac transplants are then planted out into the garden just after the danger of frost has passed. Celery root is very slow-growing, and it will take several months for the seedlings to show signs of significant growth. Just when you think you should probably give up on the plants, early autumn arrives and the bulbous roots begin to swell rapidly.
Throughout the growing season, celeriac requires ample moisture. Mulch the plants with an inch or two of straw to keep the soil moist and limit weed competition. Remove the small side shoots that develop on the bulb throughout the season. These side shoots sap energy from the main bulb, often leading to a reduced size.
During October and November, your celeriac crop is ready to harvest. After a few light frosts, cut off the greens, dig up the bulbs, brush off the dirt, and store them in a root cellar or a plastic bag in the fridge. Another option is to mulch the plants with a foot or two of straw or shredded leaves and leave the plants in the garden. Then you can pull the roots on an as-needed basis. With proper storage, either in the garden, the root cellar or in a plastic bag in the back of the fridge, you’ll be enjoying this delicious veggie throughout most of the winter.
To prepare celery roots for the kitchen, peel their tough skin. You’ll need a good, sharp knife for the job. Store peeled roots in water during preparation to keep them from turning brown. We enjoy eating celeriac as a slaw, as breaded and fried cutlets, and in various slow cooker preparations with meats and other root veggies.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.