getting to know celery root
Celery root is also referred to as celeriac, celery knob and knob celery. It is simply what its name implies: a bulbous, knobby root, but not of the celery plant we’re all familiar with. The root is derived from a special celery plant that’s cultivated specifically for its root. The brown, rough exterior can be misleading – inside awaits a slightly sweet, nutty flesh with hints of celery and parsley. While celery root has slowly been achieving popularity in the U.S., it has long been a favorite in Europe. Medicinal use of the root was mentioned in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, about 800 B.C. It’s time to get to the root of this root vegetable and appreciate its delicious taste and versatility.
The size of celery root can range from that of an apple to a small cantaloupe. Once the exterior is peeled away, celery root offers endless possibilities. It can be steamed, roasted, boiled, braised and, of course, grated or shredded raw into a salad. In fact, the French serve raw celery root pieces with mayonnaise in céleri rémoulade. Boiled and mashed celery root lends a light and creamy flavor to mashed potatoes, or it can replace potatoes all together as a stand-alone mash. It can also be parboiled then fried like French fries for a crispy alternative to the usual side dish. Given its starch-like consistency when cooked, celery root is the perfect addition to soups and stews as a flavorful thickening ingredient.
Though available nearly year-round in most areas, celery root is at its peak during the cool months of fall and early winter. The tough green leaves are typically removed before it’s sold. When selecting celery root, look for firm and heavy, smaller-sized bulbs with minimal rootlets and soft spots. Like other root vegetables, celery root can be stored in a plastic bag for about seven to 10 days when refrigerated. After a thorough washing, peel the outer skin using either a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Once peeled, keep it submerged in acidulated water (2 cups cold water mixed with 2 teaspoons white vinegar or 1½ tablespoons lemon juice) to prevent the white flesh from turning brown.
As the old adage suggests, never judge a book by its cover. With celery root, look past its rough exterior and you’ll discover a delicious vegetable that’ll surprise you with its delicate flavor and texture.