Probably originally from the Middle East, the edible bulbous root is a cultivar of celery and is very nutritious. It was apparently introduced to the UK in the 1720’s, but has never been as popular here as it is in other Northern European countries. Indeed, I have never come across anyone growing it on our allotments apart from myself. This could be because people do not realise that it needs a long growing season of about 8 months, but it is worth the wait for its delicate flavoured bulbous root.
It is best sown in February in heat in individual cells, then transferred to a cold frame and planted out in May at 30 cm spacing in their final positions. The seed should be sown on the surface of the compost, as the seeds need light to germinate. The ground should be fertile and the plants should be kept well watered in dry spells to prevent them becoming stringy. Best harvested when the bulbous root is slightly larger than a tennis ball. When raw, has a wonderful aromatic presence which will stay on your hands for days!
It is semi-hardy and with a bit of protection from frost, such as a cloche, it can be left in the ground to over-winter until you need it.
Pests and diseases. As slugs and snails like the young seedlings, protect with slug pellets. Apparently carrot fly can attack celeriac, but I have never seen any signs over a few years now. Otherwise, apart from the occasional grub burrowing into the root, it seems to be free from attack.
Suggested varieties. I have tried various different varieties, all with success. Just take your pick from the catalogues.
Using fresh. The raw roots can be coarsely grated or cut into strips for use in a Winter salad. Toss with an acidic liquid such as dilute lemon juice, to prevent the Celeriac discolouring. Try it with mayonnaise with a touch of mustard added. Cut into cubes and steam for a hot vegetable. You can even add a few of the younger leaves as a garnish and flavouring to soups.
Storage. It will stay in the ground over the Winter with a little protection.
If you have to lift it to prepare the ground for the following season, it should keep for a month in the fridge crispator.
CELERIAC (Apium graveolens var. rapacium)
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