What is celeriac?
Beneath the craggy skin lies creamy white flesh that is firm like a potato but with a hint of the flavour of celery and parsley. A classic comfort food in Europe, the flesh is sweet when roasted and whips into a velvety mash to accompany other flavours on the plate.
Swiss and Italian botanists first described celeriac root in the 1600s. It grew wild in the Mediterranean and in northern Europe and was even used as a remedy for various health problems. In the nineteenth century it was introduced in the United States and it is now cultivated around the world including in North Africa, South-West Asia and Siberia.
Don’t be put off by celeriac’s appearance – it’s a highly prized, versatile vegetable in French cuisine and it is surprisingly easy to use, adding a delightful flavour to many dishes.
In Australia, celeriac is not usually sold under a particular variety name. Most of the celeriac available in supermarkets is the White Alabaster variety. This has delicious white flesh and round bulbs. Celeriac enthusiasts sometimes grow or buy the Monarch variety, which has smoother flesh and is easier to peel.
Why celeriac is good to eat
- Celeriac is a very good source of fibre, vitamin C and essential minerals such as phosphorus, iron, calcium and copper.
- This root vegetable contains many antioxidants that can boost the immune system.
- Energy – 100 g of celeriac provides 120 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
In Victoria, celeriac seeds are sown in early spring and the seedlings transplanted in late spring and early summer. Celeriac is harvested in the cool seasons.
The seeds take quite a long time to germinate (three to four weeks) and the crop isn’t ready for harvest until three to four months later. Using germinated seedlings cuts down the time to harvest by about eight weeks.
Germinated seedlings are transplanted into garden beds and must be kept moist with daily watering. Celeriac requires some full sun, large quantities of compost and a good quality fertiliser to grow well.
Select celeriac bulbs that are firm, with as few ridges as possible. Celeriac bulbs that are old often have tough and tasteless flesh. To help you identify fresh celeriac, look for stalks and leaves that are not too dull and wilted.
How to store and keep celeriac
Celeriac can be stored like carrots and turnips in the vegetable compartment of your fridge.
It lasts for a few weeks if it is wrapped in plastic and not allowed to dry out.
How to use
- A versatile vegetable, celeriac can be eaten raw in salads or boiled, steamed, roasted or mashed. Use with potato for a creamy mash or bake in a gratin with cheese.
- Roasting gives celeriac a beautiful sweet flavour. As a tasty comfort food, use celeriac in soups, casseroles and stews.
- Celeriac pairs well with pork and lamb, and with herbs such as bay leaves and thyme.
- Slice celeriac into strips (julienne), dip in batter and fry as an alternative to chips.
- Remove all surface dirt on the celeriac root by washing in cold water. Dry and then peel off the tough outer skin.
- Once celeriac is cut and exposed to air, it turns brown. To stop this from happening, rub some lemon (or orange) over the cut surface or place cut pieces of celeriac in water with a squeeze of lemon juice.
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Better Health Channel
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