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With a show of hands, how many of you have ever grown celeriac, also known as celery root? Hmm, I don’t see a lot of hands. Why not? Celeriac, often described as knobby or (gasp!) ugly, seems to be a rather under-appreciated root vegetable, but it truly is a superstar in my winter garden. However, growing celeriac is a long term commitment as it takes around four months to go from seed to harvest. But, trust me, it’s worth it. Celeriac lasts all winter long, offering its rounded roots until we finally run out sometime in late March.
Both celeriac and its better known cousin celery, are members of the parsley family and prized for their aromatic flavour. They are both slow growers that are tucked into the garden as seedlings in early May, but only begin to size up by mid-summer. Admittedly, they are a tad greedy, enjoying both rich soil and regular moisture, but the minimal work is worth the reward.
We don’t harvest celeriac until late October, allowing the roots to grow as large as possible. By late November, when the ground threatens to freeze, we deep mulch the celeriac bed (about 24 big roots) with a foot of shredded leaves. This is topped with a row cover to hold the mulch in place.
As winter progresses and the bed is buried under a steady layer of insulating snow, we harvest these lovely roots, using them as a celery substitute in pasta sauces, soups, and stews, and raw on veggie trays. The leaves, which often stay quite green beneath the mulch, can be added to vegetable or soup stocks to impart an intense celery flavour.
Are you growing celeriac in your garden?