Celeriac, also called root celery or knob celery, is very similar to celery, however, it’s much easier to grow. Renowned for the crisp celery flavor of the root, you can enjoy this vegetable cooked or raw. Although most North American’s have never heard of it, it’s long been a staple in European cooking and gardens.
While celeriac isn’t going to win a beauty pageant, it’s flavor is unsurpassed. With a rich and sensuous flavor, it’s a delicious addition to many meals. The slightly nutty, slightly spicy and hint of celery in the flavor will quickly make it a family favorite. Add it to salads or stir fries, toss some into a stew and enjoy a slice or two raw.
Patience Will Pay Off
It’s important to understand that celeriac grows very slowly. Don’t panic when you don’t think it’s growing, it tends to be a slow beginner but it always adds to the weight in the end. Patience will pay off with this vegetable.
The roots will look dismal for many weeks. Just keep mounding the soil over them and make sure that they are receiving plenty of water.
Choose Your Variety
There are a few different varieties from which to choose. You can choose Prinz which will give you many roots of about fist size. Or, if you prefer something that is easier to peel you may wish to consider Monarch. Monarch boasts a tender flesh and a smooth skin which is much easier to peel and use.
Planting Your Seeds
Celeriac requires a long growing season, you’ll want to start them as soon as possible indoors to ensure that they will have plenty of time to grow.
Once you’ve chosen your variety, you are ready to begin planting. You’ll want to start your celeriac indoors about 10 to 12 weeks prior to the last frost. Start your seeds in a cell plant starter by placing several seeds in each sell. Gently press them into the dirt.
Keep the soil moist with either a spray bottle of water on a mist setting or a plant mister. You don’t want to over water the seedlings or they will drown, but you want to keep the soil moist to encourage the germination.
Don’t be surprised if only a few of your seeds come up. Typically, you’ll only get about 50 percent germination for celeriac. The ideal germination temperature is 70 to 75 Fahrenheit. It will take about 14 to 21 days for your seeds to germinate.
Care And Maintenance
After the seedlings have emerged and are beginning to grow well, thin them to one plant per cell. You can set your seedlings out in the garden about six to eight inches apart.
The plants can withstand a mild frost so you can plant them with confidence a week or two before the last frost. Mulch some soil over the roots to keep them covered. Slowly acclimatize the seedlings by leaving them outdoors during the day and slowly leaving them outdoors longer and longer.
Many people use a cold frame to ensure that their plants are hardening off well before they put them outdoors.
After planting the celeriac in the soil, be sure to remove the bottom few leaves. Continue monitoring your celeriac carefully and make sure to remove any yellowed leaves whenever they appear.
Your celeriac will enjoy plenty of water. They don’t like to have too much water, they just want enough to keep the soil moist. You can keep an eye on the soil moisture by simply putting your finger into the soil to see how wet it is. If your finger encounters water when you press it into the soil then it’s moist enough. If the soil is dry, be sure to give it a good watering.
Digging Up The Celeriac
Again, you’re going to have to be very patient about your celeriac. The roots will appear to be small for quite some time and the last week or so before the first frost, they will suddenly grow rapidly. They should be ready mid fall or later.
You can leave the roots in the ground in milder climates and simply cut what you need when you need it, or you can dig them up and allow them to dry off and store them in a cool dark place such as a root cellar or basement.
Remember to allow them to dry off, don’t wash the soil off or you may cause some damage to your celeriac by root rot. Keep them well ventilated as they dry off.
Guard them against dampness and if you have slugs in your area be sure to keep the slugs away from them.
Enjoy your celeriac just as you would celery or any other root vegetable. They can be enjoyed raw or cooked, in stews, soups, and salads.