A week before Christmas, just before I thought the ground would completely freeze, I harvested a bumper crop of celeriac. More commonly referred to as celery root, celeriac is a cousin to anise, carrots, parsley, and parsnips that is grown especially for its crisp, white-fleshed, knobby root, rather than for its stalks and leaves. Once unearthed, the root that appears is a warty-looking globe with a tangle of gnarly roots, which most people would find very unappealing.
But celeriac really is the ugly duckling of the vegetable world, because once the peel is removed, you’ll find flesh that’s nutty, sweet, and full of a delicate celery flavor. And like other winter-root vegetables, celeriac is hearty and versatile, and can be prepared in so many different ways. It can be boiled, braised, steamed, roasted, or eaten raw. Potatoes take on a new character when boiled and mashed with celeriac. It’s delicious simmered in soups and stews, or baked in gratins. And it’s wonderful when roasted with meats or shredded for salads and slaws. Additionally, half a cup contains only 30 calories, no fat, and plenty of dietary fiber.
Best of all, celeriac has an extremely long shelf life of three to four months in the refrigerator, making it the perfect vegetable if you want to enjoy something homegrown during the winter months.
The celeriac roots were the last crop to be lifted from my vegetable garden. The frost-wilted stalks and leaves were cut off and then the knobby root was lifted with a garden fork.
It’s little wonder that celeriac has been called the ‘ugly duckling’ and the ‘frog prince’ of winter vegetables.
Dirt really clings to celeriac’s mass of roots so it requires a thorough cleaning.
When shopping for celeriac, lift it and feel its weight. It should be firm and heavy, not soft, shriveled, or bruised.
Because celeriac has an extremely long shelf life, this crop should last me all winter long.
To prepare this aromatic vegetable, the bottom roots are trimmed off with the pruners and then the rough thick skin is removed with a paring knife.
The creamy texture and mild celery flavor of this celeriac and potato puree is a delicious alternative to plain mashed potatoes.