Monday, March 4, 2013

Discovering celeriac

OK, I know I'm late coming to the kitchen table on this one. It's not like celeriac is this year's 'must try' vegetable. In fact, it's so 2009, based on my Google searches on what to do with this odd, knobby and gnarled, bulbous-headed root vegetable.


While I'm not intimidated by funky looking vegetables, I admit to not always being the most adventurous produce shopper. While my kids are both enthusiastic greens eaters (Ella actually asks for Brussels sprouts and Jack can put away a shocking number of fresh-off-the-vine cherry tomatoes), they're not the most intrepid when it comes to trying new things. But if they're never exposed to unfamiliar ("weird looking" in kidspeak) veg because I don't want to listen to the chorus of "what is that?" or "you're not actually going to make me try that, are you?" then their palates will never evolve. That's what I lecture tell then at least.

Truth be told, I have another reason for trying celeriac: I don't want to grow celery. Celery has the reputation for being fussy -- hard to start from seed, a gluttonous feeder and a voracious drinker -- and while it's easy to grow bitter, stringy celery, growing tasty celery (I'm told) is much trickier.

I'm not up for growing ornery vegetables this year, so I thought about trying celeriac instead. Even though it doesn't replace celery entirely, unlike its greener cousin, it's much easier to grow and it stores well.

While it looks tough on the outside, I simply topped and tailed it, then used a paring knife to remove the skin, which is thicker than a potato but more forgiving than a rutabaga.

While celeriac is wonderful in soups and stews (so I've read) I wanted to taste the flavour on its own, so I kept the preparation simple: I chopped it into a few large pieces, doused it in some cold water with a shot of lemon juice to prevent browning while the water was coming to a boil, and then boiled until soft. I drained the pot, smashed the celeriac, and only added some butter, milk and salt and pepper. That was it.

The kids likened it to a cross between potatoes and celery. While it was definitely more fibrous than mashed spuds, I thought it had a similar comfort food quality, with a celery-like taste and nutty undertones. Nice.
While this could be a side dish on its own, I'm going to try cream of celeriac soup next.

And while celeriac will never take home any prizes for perfect-looking produce, I think I'll include a few plants in this year's garden. For as Ashley Miller writes in her article from the October 2000 issue of Kitchen Gardener Magazine on "How to Grow Celeriac" ugly is only skin deep.

4 comments:

cinnamon gurl said...

I just discovered celeriac this winter and I can't get enough. Shredded and raw, it makes my coleslaw sing. Fantastic in soups and stews. I now prefer it to celery. I've heard it's still a slow-growing, heavy feeder though.

Mama Pea said...

Oh my. I had no idea that was what celeriac looked like! (I thought you had taken a picture of a human brain in your hand. Sorry.) I must confess I can grow bitter, stringy celery with the best of them . . . but so far, you don't have me convinced to try celeriac. I'll be eager to see how it does for you this summer. Interesting, very interesting.

Fiona@RowangarthFarm said...

@ cinnamon gurl -- oh, coleslaw... hadn't thought of that. Yum.. thanks! And yes, I think the growing habits are similar to celery -- 120 days and hungry, but it's less fussy and more hardy. We'll see!

@ Mama Pea -- it reminded me of a shrunken head at first, so no worries about the brain comment! And yes, stay tuned to see how this grows!

farmgirlwanabe said...

Hi I can't wait to try growing it again this year -I tried last year but no luck -not enough sun I think -anybody have any tips?

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