Monday, February 18, 2008

Celery root

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.


Vivienne said...

After planting in my usual seed tray, I was alarmed to read a recommendation for plug tray planting, with the comment, "resents transplanting". Happily, I have now pricked out seedlings and they seem to be doing just fine in 4-packs, some with the second true leaf.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog (via Kim's blog), so please forgive the late response!!

I never liked celery before last summer. I tried it with peanut butter, in salads and even with the cream cheesy type dips in it. Yuck. Then, we got some celery from our farm share (Needle-Lane farms) and LOVED it. I am going to try to grow some this year myself, and I hope that the CSA provides some, too!

TeacherPatti :)

Buttercup said...

Hi, teacherpatti - thanks for joining in. I found out that growing celery and celeriac has a special trick - the celeriac at least and I suspect the regular celery can't be held for any period of time at below 55 degrees. So I have all these 4-packs that I had out in the cold frame, now back in the house staying warm. The secret is that the cold induction period can cause these biennials to bloom just when we want them to be producing that nice fat root.