THIS WEEK WE’RE focusing on growing, cooking and eating celeriac. Celeriac is not a particularly common vegetable in Ireland, which is a shame because in my book it’s an absolutely brilliant veg to grow and eat.
It is super healthy, raw or cooked – high in anti-oxidants and dietary fibre and a good source of Vitamin K and essential minerals like iron, calcium and copper.
Celeriac is a turnip-shaped swollen stem and has a similar taste and smell to celery. Similar to celery, it’s not the easiest of vegetables to grow, particularly if you are growing from seed. But if you can get some healthy seedlings in to the ground early (by late May) it won’t need much maintenance and will reward you with a super-durable crop.
Whereas celery has to be harvested within weeks of being ready, celeriac will stand happily in the ground right through the winter months. As a result, I generally don’t go near celeriac in the veg patch until around this time of the year when other veg are getting scarce. It’s brilliant in the kitchen – equally at home in a soup or stock as it is raw in a coleslaw or salad.
Grow celeriac as you would with celery, but because it stores well, there’s no need for multiple sowings. A single sowing in late March or early April is all that’s required. Broadcast (sprinkle liberally) the seed in to a pot filled with compost.
As is the case with celery, celeriac seeds need light to germinate so do not cover the seed with compost. Place the pot somewhere warm (a sunny windowsill or a heating mat) – it’s slow to germinate so don’t expect any action for two to three weeks. Keep the compost moist (a cling film cover until the seeds germinate will help).
Prick the seedlings out in to module trays (one seedling per module) about 2 weeks after germination (when about 3cm tall).
Dig the bed where you are going to grow celeriac in the winter or early spring and add plenty of well rotted manure or compost. After hardening off well, plant out the seedlings in to the bed in May or when the seedlings are 10cm tall.
Space the plants 35cm x 35cm apart. If you grow 24 celeriac you can enjoy one a week from October to the end of March. You will need one metre of veg bed for every 9 celeriac (where the bed is 1.2 metre wide). Celeriac is shallow rooting which means two things – firstly it will dry out easily so you will need to water well in dry weather. Secondly you need to be careful when hoeing in case you damage the roots.
Celeriac will be ready to eat from October onwards. They can be left in the ground in a mild winter (though they can be a little vulnerable to worms etc which will bore inside) or lifted and stored in sand. Use a fork to gently lift the plant, roots and all.
It’s a healthy veg, so not much will bother it. Slugs like the seedlings however.
- In summer pick off the outer leaves on the top of the bulb – this will encourage the bulb to swell.
- Spread a mulch around the plants in summer to preserve moisture in the soil.
Recipe of the Week – Celeriac Remoulade
If I am in a hurry I make a quick celeriac remoulade simply by chopping some celeriac finely and adding some mayo and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. This Nigel Slater recipe is a little more elaborate, but still quick and delicious. It’s great with ham or shredded duck – we’ve also enjoyed it wrapped in little parcels of smoked salmon.
- 1 medium sized celeriac (about 450g)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 4 heaped tbsp mayonaise
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp double cream or crème fraiche
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Peel and then cut the celeriac finely in to fine strips (no thicker than a matchstick). Toss immediately in some lemon juice to prevent them from discolouring. Mix together the mayo, mustard, double cream and parsley in a bowl and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fold in the celeriac. Set aside for half an hour and then serve.
Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.