Friday, February 19, 2010

Plant Profile: Celeriac

By Nina Berryman

“What is this?” was a common exclamation during last week’s pick up as people laid eyes on celeriac for the first time. Celeriac, also known as celery root, is a little known vegetable closely related to celery. For any of you who have not dared to try it yet, do not judge it by its gnarly appearance, it is actually quite delicious! Celery and celeriac are actually subspecies of the same species, Apium graveolens. Celery has been selectively bred for its stalk whereas celeriac has been selectively bred for its roots. They are members of the Apiaceae family (formerly known as Umbellliferaceae), which also includes dill, carrot, cilantro, parsnips and parsley. This family was previously known as Umbelliferaceae because the flowers grow in umbels, which is the botanical name for flowers that grow in a cluster that is the shape of an umbrella. Think of the wild flower Queen Anne’s Lace, which is also in this family. You will be hard pressed to see the flowers of a celeriac plant though, because they are biennials, meaning they do not flower until their second year. Unless you are interested in seed saving, most farmers will harvest celeriac as soon as it is ready to eat, which is after about 100 days. This is one of our slowest growing crops on the farm. It stores exceptionally well, either in your house after it is picked, or in the ground over the winter. The bulb can be eaten cooked or raw, and the stalks are great for making soup stock.

Ashworth, Susan, Seed to Seed. Seed Savers Exchange. 2002.

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