A basket of knobby, baseball sized objects stare at you from the veggie cooler. They are not pretty… they actually don’t look like much at all. So, what are you looking at? Celeriac, the root of the celery plant.
What is celeriac?
Celeriac is celery—it comes from the same plant, Apium graveolens. However, celeriac is a variety called rapaceum which was selected for its larger root structure. While your hands still have a wonderful celery smell to them after handling the root, celeriac cannot be substituted in recipes that call for celery.
Celeriac has a different texture—it is not fibrous or stringy like celery stalks. When cooked, celeriac can be mashed or pureed to a very smooth texture. When raw, it can be grated into salads or slaws.
Growing wild in the Mediterranean, celeriac might be difficult to find in seedling form at local garden centers. Generally started indoors from seed, celeriac takes 110-120 days to mature. Seeds would typically be started in late February, small plants would go in the ground in mid-May, and roots harvested in late summer to early fall using a potato fork. Fun fact—celeriac is actually a biennial (it grows, produces flowers, and sets seed in two years); however, it is grown as an annual (grows, produces flowers and sets seed in one year) in order to be most flavorful.
Celeriac stores well if kept in 35-40 degree temperatures with high humidity. It is best to remove all rootlets and all but 1 inch of stems/leaves.
What does celeriac taste like?
Celeriac tastes like celery, with a nuttiness or earthiness to it. The root is high in vitamins C, K, and several B vitamins. Celeriac can easily be substituted for other root vegetables in recipes (such as potatoes). Added to soups and stews, cooked, mashed, or pureed, baked into fries, shredded and eaten raw; the list goes on and on. A simple recipe for celery root slaw can be found at MarthaStewart.com.