Although celeriac isn’t the prettiest vegetable (think knobby, hairy baseball), once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be hooked. It’s closely related to celery, but instead of producing thick stems, celeriac develops a swollen root structure topped with many stalks of attractive dark green, parsley-like leaves. Trim off celeriac’s bumpy brownish outside to reveal a dense, creamy white flesh. Celeriac has a delicious mild celery-like flavor with a hint of nuttiness and can be used raw or cooked. This vegetable is fairly easy to grow (just be sure to keep it watered), but it does require a long growing season of 110 to 130 days after transplanting, so plan ahead.
Common name: Celeriac, celery root or knob celery
Botanical name: Apium graveolens var. rapaceum
Plant type: Vegetable
Height: 18 to 24 inches
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Loam or sandy loam with high organic matter is ideal.
• Moisture: Evenly moist; keep plants watered through the growing season for the best quality celeriac
• Mulch: 1 to 2 inches of straw, loose compost or other organic mulch.
• Pruning: None
• Fertilizer: Dig in compost or balanced fertilizer before planting; then fertilize monthly with diluted soluble fertilizer or compost tea.
Pests and diseases
• No major problems
• ‘Giant Prague’ (also known as ‘Large Smooth Prague’), ‘Diamant’ and ‘Brilliant’ are popular varieties.
• Celeriac is slow to germinate and grow, so start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost in your area, or look for established seedlings at your local garden center.
• Celeriac tolerates light frosts, but harvest before serious freezing temperatures set in.
• Trimmed celeriac keeps extremely well in the refrigerator, often up to 3 or 4 months.
All in the family
• Celeriac is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), which is sometimes still listed under its old name, Umbelliferae.
• Other common garden vegetables and herbs in the carrot family include carrots, parsnips, celery, fennel, dill, parsley and cilantro.
• The caterpillars of black swallowtail butterflies are partial to feeding on carrot family members (dill seems especially popular), so be sure to plant extra in the garden.
Where to buy
• Johnny’s Selected Seeds; 877-564-6697; www.johnnyseeds.com
• Stokes Seeds; 800-263-7233; www.stokeseeds.com
• Territorial Seed Co.; 800-626-0866; www.territorialseed.com