Celery root, also called celeriac, is an edible root vegetable in the celery family. The stalks and leaves strongly resemble celery, although they are not very good to eat. The root itself is a lumpy tuber of unprepossessing appearance, although it packs an excellent taste and is used throughout European cuisine, especially in France. Celery root is beginning to be popular in the United States, with more cooks discovering its myriad uses.
In appearance, celery root resembles a misshapen turnip. It is brown and lumpy, and the brown outer skin should be washed and peeled before cooking. The root puts out shoots and leaves that look like celery, but since the plant has been bred to focus its growing energy on the root, these stalks tend not to be edible. By the time the celery root is harvested, the stalks are still fairly small, yet very woody because of their age. They should be trimmed and discarded.
When picking out celery root to eat, cooks should look for firm tubers without fleshy spots or discolorations. Smaller roots will taste better, while larger roots are woodier and more suitable for roasting or long stewing. In flavor, the root resembles a concentrated version of celery, with a spicy hint of parsley. Celery root can be used in any recipe that calls for celery, and a variety of others as well. It can be stored in the fridge in a brown paper bag with stems trimmed for approximately one week before use.
Celery root is superb roasted, added to gratins, or added to soups and stews. It can also be eaten raw in thin slices on salads and appetizers, and it adds a zesty crunch. If cooks can obtain the root during the summer, it makes a great chilled summer soup puree. Some cooks also mash roasted winter root vegetables together for an updated version of mashed potatoes with more flavor and zest.
Much like celery, its close cousin, growing celery root begins with starting seedlings approximately two months before the last expected frost. Gardeners can transplant the seedlings to a sunny, slightly acidic area of the garden in compost rich soil, planting tje, 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) apart. The roots should be kept covered as the plant grows, and the feeder roots should be periodically pruned. The root is ready for harvest when it is approximately baseball sized. It takes around 200 days to mature.