It’s always fun to take the mystery out of something, get to feel comfortable with it.
The root vegetable, celeriac, (pronounced celery’-ack), for many, is a mystery. It is related to parsley, and it’s not the root of the celery we all know. Unknown as it is, it has names all its own: celery root, celery knob, celery knave, German celery, also turnip-rooted celery. It’s a worldly root, more popular in other countries.
Celeriac is also ugly and usually lopsided. Its rough, deep brown exterior looks rather like the surface of the moon, for it is channeled with nubs, crevices and hairy rootlets. This has won for celeriac, once root cellar queen, a rather Cinderella-like fate, as she was practically banished from the North American scene when refrigeration appeared. Prettier, graceful, slender, pale-green stalked celery became the favored celery flavor in this land.
Celeriac is a world player. Introduced to Britain in the 1700s, it is also grown in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Italy. It’s a favorite in the Orient and India, as well. Today, the Netherlands devotes a significant amount of their export agriculture to celery root. Three quarters of the crop is exported, and the remainder is either processed or sold locally on the fresh market. The long-time, famed bistros of France serve time-honored Celeriac Remoulade, a salad of raw celery root with a mustard and mayonnaise dressing (recipe below).
Celeriac is a good source of potassium, phosphorous and vitamin C, with small amounts of Vitamin B, calcium and iron. It is credited with boosting the immune system. Dieters like the fact it has only 40 calories in a 4-ounce serving, 154 calories per pound. Though high in sodium, it is rich, filling, high fiber, fat-free and cholesterol-free.
Select roots slightly larger than softballs, heavy for their size and smooth as possible. A good one will be firm, with a distinct aroma of celery. Always peel celeriac using a knife rather than a potato peeler. The interior is smooth and white, similar to a white turnip root. Once peeled, cut into coarse chunks and toss with lemon juice. You might have to ask your produce department manager to special order some for you.
Celeriac’s a versatile root, and here are some serving suggestions:
- Shred finely for use, uncooked, in salads.
- Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, then peel, butter and season.
- Boil celeriac and potatoes together, mash with butter and herbs
- Steam one-half-inch slices for 5-8 minutes
- Fresh herbs, nutmeg, garlic, cinnamon, cloves or allspice enhance flavor in warm celeriac.
- Braise, grill or deep fry
- Serve boiled with a cheese sauce
- Substitute for celery in Waldorf Salad
- Use in soups, stews, purees
- Combines well with watercress, smoked meats, sausages, beets or carrots
- Excellent in poultry or meat stuffings
- Pair with turnips or parsnips
- Can be pickled or frozen