I’ve never been tempted to grow celery in my vegetable garden. It is so readily available and relatively inexpensive, and I’ve never heard anyone brag about the just-picked flavor of their garden celery.
But last fall I bought some celeriac (celery root) from Tantré Farms and had a revelation. It can be grown here, and it makes a really good companion to other late root crops. I made a julienne of the celeriac and some turnips, also from Tantré, with a simple vinaigrette and a little dried basil. It was enthusiastically received here. I suspect that it is also good in any recipe that uses roasted root vegetables. The roots kept a long time in the vegetable crisper, and I believe that their flavor is more subtle than ordinary celery (the leaf petioles).
So – I bought seeds of the variety “President” from Cook’s Garden. The picture looked like the one from Tantré. Some celeriac is round and knobby; this was cylindrical and knobby. The seed packet said to start 8-12 weeks before last frost, which meant right away. So now I’m checking my seed tray on the heater every day.
For some years I have grown another close celery relative, lovage. This perennial herb is about 5 feet tall when it blooms. Blooms are like all those of the Umbelliferae (the carrot family) —they are like Queen Anne’s Lace but not as pretty. I use lovage sometimes when I’m out of most other leafy herbs— it is not too bad as a substitute for parsley but actually the leaves have a strong celery taste. Because of my experience with the lovage, I know I’m likely to have problems with Cercospora leaf spot on the celeriac too. Fortunately this disease is favored by hot weather so begins somewhat later in the season.