We like to visit different farmers markets around our area. On a recent visit I happened to notice a very unattractive-looking vegetable. Upon questioning the vendor, she explained that it was celeriac, sometimes referred to as celery root. She told me how delicious it was, and how underutilized it is in the U.S. She went on to say how good it was when used in soups, especially potato. She convinced me, so I purchased some to take home. I also made a mental note to do some research to learn more about this vegetable.

To be perfectly honest, I recall seeing this plant described in several seed catalogs, but I never gave it a second thought.

National Public radio reported that it was mentioned in Homer's Odyssey around 800 B.C. It was first recorded growing as a food plant in France around 1623. The plant now grows wild throughout the Mediterranean area as well as northern Europe where it is cultivated widely. It has not become very popular in the U.S. However, those who are familiar with it are singing its praises as a versatile vegetable.

For starters, celeriac is very nutritious. A quarter pound of the root contains just 42 calories. It is high in antioxidants, as well as vitamin K. It also contains essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper, and manganese.

Celeriac is a warm-season crop, so those of us who live in northern areas might want to start it indoors or in a greenhouse. It grows best in temperatures between 55-85 degrees F. It is frost-tolerant once it is mature.
It requires full sun, and does best with a soil pH of between 6.8 and 7.0. Feed your plants with a fertilizer such as a 5-10-10 a few weeks after transplanting, and mid-season. Be patient since the average interval between planting and harvest is 112 days.

Celeriac stores very well, usually 6 to 8 months in the proper environment. The USDA recommends a temperature of 33-40 degrees F with a humidity of 85-90%.

If you're having trouble finding celeriac seed locally here are some mail order sources:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Stokes Seeds.

plantfiles

And here is a recipe for soup I was given at the farmers market. The salad is used as a garnish for the soup.

Celeriac and Potato Soup
Serves 4
• Juice of 1 to 2 lemons
• 2 celery roots
• 4 to 5 medium potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled
• 2 medium shallots, finely diced
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• Sea salt
• 6 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable or chicken stock (or water)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil or other cooking oil

1. Squeeze the juice of 1- 2 lemons into a large bowl of cold water and keep it close by as you work with the celery root. To clean the celeriac, trim the leaves and the stalks (set them aside for another use, if you wish). Peel the rough, gnarly skin by cutting a slice off the top and the bottom (the way you would peel a melon or pineapple). Then, carefully slide your knife down the sides, taking the peel off as you go. Cut the celery root into 1/2-inch cubes and immerse the slices into the lemon water as you work.

2. Peel and dice the potatoes since they will require slightly more time to cook than the celery root. Be sure to cut the potatoes into roughly the same size or smaller. Chop the celery stalks into thin slices. If they have leaves, trim and save the leaves for the salad below.

3. Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Drain the celeriac (discard the lemon water) and then add the celery, celeriac, potatoes, shallots, and parsley to the pot. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables develop some color -- about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and cook for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced. Add 6 cups of stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender.

4. Blend or pulse the soup very briefly until smooth, but leave a good amount of texture. The potatoes tend to get gummy if blended too long.

Mushroom, Walnut, and Celery Leaf Salad

• 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons walnut oil
• 3 to 4 pounds cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
• 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
• Celery leaves from two bunches of celery (about 1 cup)
• Sea salt, black pepper

1. Prepare the vinaigrette for the salad. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 2 tablespoons walnut oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

2. Trim celery leaves from two bunch of celery. Rinse and dry the leaves and then set them aside.

3. Toast the walnuts lightly.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the olive oil becomes fragrant, add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they become brown and begin to release some water. Add 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked through. Toss the mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, and celery leaves with the Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Serve the soup warm. Top each bowl with two heaping tablespoons of the salad. The soup and salad will keep in the refrigerator overnight. The soup may be safely stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Bon Appetite!

Sources:
National Public Radio
Encyclopedia Britannica
Urban Organic Gardening.org

Images courtesy of [email protected] and [email protected]