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From the Garden: Looks aren't everything - consider growing celeriac in this year's veg patch

It is a delicious vegetable included in mashed potato or even grated raw.

Michael Kelly Grower

ALTHOUGH CELERIAC IS a relative newcomer in Ireland, I have become a major fan and reckon it deserves far more notoriety than it currently enjoys.

Celeriac looks similar in size and shape to a turnip, but as the name suggests, it basically tastes like celery with a slightly nuttier flavour.

I love celery, but it doesn’t keep well in the ground and so it’s not possible to store it fresh (though you can freeze it).

Celeriac, on the other hand, is a big knobbly (and truth be told, ugly) root vegetable and it will store very well because of its thick skin.

I generally just leave them in the ground over the winter until I need them. They’ve provided us with many a delicious meal so far this winter.

You can use celeriac in any dish that you need to put celery in (so for example you can dice it and lob it into a stew or soup) but it’s tasty enough to stand on its own two feet too.

It’s delicious put into a mashed potato or even grated raw. My absolute favourite way to eat celeriac is to eat it raw in a slaw or salad.

A celeriac remoulade is delicious and is simple – the celeriac is left raw and simply cut
into very fine strips.

I made a dressing from half/half natural yoghurt and mayo with a little bit of yellow mustard.

This is a great way to get some raw veggies in to you without it feeling like you are eating raw veggies (if you know what I mean).

Celeriac is one of those vegetables I think that is easy to grow but hard to grow well. The key, I think, is that it has a very long growing season – you start it from seed in late March and it can take two to three weeks to germinate.

When the seedlings are hardy and about 10cm tall, you plant them out. Celeriac loves constant moisture so a soil with plenty of well-rotted compost or manure added is vital, and it will need a lot of watering in dry weather.

A nice trick I discovered last year is this: to help the bulb to bulk out you remove the outer leaves around the crown.

In a 5m x 1.2m veg bed, you will produce enough celeriac to last 24 weeks (eating two of them a week).

That’s surely a good investment in your winter store cupboard.

celeriac Celeriac growing in the garden. Source: Michael Kelly

Things to Do This Month – January

Plan 

This is a great month to decide where and what you are going to grow this year. If you are just starting out join your local GIY group for some advice and check out our website for handy videos and guides to get you started. 

Consider building or buying some raised vegetable beds. There’s still time to spread well-rotted manure or compost on your vegetable beds and cover them down with black polythene to start warming them up for spring sowing.

Start collecting old plastic bottles and containers as cloches and covers, and collect toilet roll inserts to use as pots for sowing.

Order your seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes.

Harvest

January is a lean month in your first few years of GIYing and it requires foresight the previous spring/summer to ensure that you have things worth eating at this time of the year.

You may have winter cabbage, perpetual spinach, chard, leeks, kale, cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts in your veggie patch. 

Depending on how successful your growing/storage regime was last year, you may well still be tucking into stores of potatoes, celeriac, carrots, parsnips, onions, cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes, winter squash, pumpkins, leeks and red cabbage.

Recipe of the Week – Colcannon

I love the warming earthiness of colcannon – it’s my favourite way to eat cabbage.

You can also use kale for this recipe. Serves four. 

Ingredients

  • 500g of cabbage – stalks removed and then shredded
  • 500g potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 150ml hot milk
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped 

Directions 

Steam the potatoes in their skins for a half hour, then peel and mash them.

Add a lump of butter and season well.

Meanwhile, steam the cabbage or kale in a small amount of boiling water until tender.
Don’t overcook.

Put the milk in a pan and throw in the spring onions, simmering for about five minutes.

Add this and the cabbage/kale to the spuds and beat well.

Serve with a knob of butter on top and sprinkle with some parsley.

Some chopped ham or crispy bacon added in before serving also works a treat.

Michael Kelly is an author, broadcaster and founder of GIY. 

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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