Common names: celeriac, turnip-rooted celery, celery root, knob celery Botanical name: Apium graveolens rapaceum Origin: Europe and Africa
Alabaster (120 days); Giant Prague (120 days).
Celeriac is a form of celery, a member of the same family, and similar in growing habits and requirements. Its physical characteristics and culinary uses, however, are quite different. The edible root of celeriac is large and swollen, like a turnip, and develops at soil-level; a rosette of dark green leaves sprouts from the root. The stems are hollow. The French and Germans are more accustomed than Americans to celeriac; it's commonly used In stews or eaten raw.
Celeriac does best in cool weather and especially enjoys cool nights. To grow celeriac, start in spring in the North, in late summer in the South. In the North, start from transplants; the seeds are very slow to germinate. Plant them on the average date of last frost; set the plants six to eight inches apart in rows 24 to 30 inches apart. In the South you can grow celeriac from seed. Sometimes a second crop is grown by seeding directly outdoors in spring. Plant the seeds a quarter inch deep in rows 24 to 30 inches apart, and when the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to six to eight inches apart.
Celeriac tolerates light shade and prefers rich soil that is high in organic matter, well able to hold moisture but with good drainage. It needs constant moisture and does well in wet locations. It's a heavy feeder and needs plenty of fertilizer to keep it growing quickly. When you're preparing the soil for planting, work in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
If you're sowing seeds for transplants start indoors two to four months before your estimated planting date — the seeds germinate slowly. Cover the seeds with an eighth of an inch of soil, and then lay a material like burlap over the containers to keep the moisture in. Transplant carefully. To give the seedlings a good start, plant them in a trench three to four inches deep. Space the seedlings eight to 10 inches apart in rows two feet apart.
Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Part 1.
Frequent watering is important; celeriac, like celery, is shallow-rooted, and a lack of soil moisture can stop its growth. A Keep the top few inches of soil moist at all times.
Celeriac cannot compete with weeds. Cultivate conscientiously, but be careful not to disturb the
Celeriac seedling shallow roots. As the tuber develops, snip off the side roots and hill up the soil over the swollen area for a short time to blanch the tubers. The outer surface will be whitened, but the interior will remain a brownish color.
Celeriac has no serious pest problems; it's a good vegetable for the organic gardener.
Celeriac has no serious disease problems.
Time from planting to harvest is 110 to 120 daysfrom seed. A 10-foot row should give you 16 to 20 roots. Pick off the lower leaves — you can use them to flavor soups and stews. Harvest celeriac when the swollen root is three to four inches wide. In warmer climates, harvest the roots when they're about the size of a baseball. Celeriac increases in flavor after the first frost, but should be harvested before the first hard freeze.
You can dry the leaves to use as an herb in soups and stews. Keep the roots in the refrigerator up to one week, or store them in a cold, moist place for two to three months. They will keep in the ground in areas where freezing weather is not a problem. You can also freeze the roots; handle them like turnips. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Peel, dice, and cook celeriac roots; then marinate them in vinegar and oil, seasoned to your taste. Or shred the raw roots, dress them with a light vinaigrette, and add them to a salad. Celeriac makes an interesting addition to any luncheon.
Common name: celery Botanical name: Apium graveolens dulce Origin: Europe
Summer Pascal (115 days); Golden Plume (118 days); Utah 5270 (125 days).
Celery is a hardy biennial grown as an annual. It has a tight rosette of eight- to 18-inch stalks, topped with many divided leaves. The flowers look like coarse Queen Anne's lace and are carried on tall stalks. Celery is a more popular vegetable in this country than its cousin celeriac (which it doesn't resemble at all in looks or taste).
Both are members of the parsley family, to which dill and fennel also belong, and probably originated in Mediterranean countries. Celery had been used earlier for medicinal purposes, but the French were probably the first to use it as a vegetable, somewhere around 1600. It was brought from Scotland to Michigan, where it was grown by Dutch farmers during the last half of the 19th century, and was not produced commercially in the United States until the 1870s. It's a versatile vegetable — you can eat the stalks, leaves, and seeds — but it needs a lot of attention, and it's not an easy crop for the home gardener.
Celery does best in cool weather and especially enjoys cool nights. Cold weather will inhibit growth. Grow celery in spring in the North, planting transplants two to three weeks before the average date of last frost, or in the late summer in the South. Celery seeds are very slow to germinate, so it's usually more-satisfactory to use transplants.
Celery tolerates light shade and prefers rich soil that is high in organic matter, well able to hold moisture but with good drainage; it does well in wet, almost boggy locations. It's a heavy feeder and needs plenty of fertilizer for continuous quick growth. When you're preparing the soil for planting, work in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If you're sowing seeds for
transplants, start them two to four months before your estimated planting date — they germinate slowly. Cover the seeds with an eighth inch of soil, and then lay a material like burlap over the containers to keep the moisture in. Transplant them in trenches three to four inches deep and two feet apart. Space the seedlings eight to 10 inches apart, and as they grow mound the soil up around them to blanch the stems. Having the plants fairly close together will also help blanching.
Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.
Make sure that the plants get plenty of water at all stages of growth. Celery is a moisture-loving plant, and lack of water may slow growth and encourage the plant to send up flower stalks — it will also get very stringy.
Celery does not like competition from weeds during the slow early growth stage, so cultivate regularly, taking care to avoid damage to the roots, which are close to the soil surface. Unlike cauliflower, which is not much affected in flavor by blanching or whitening, celery will be bitter if it isn't blanched. Blanching is achieved by covering the plants to protect them from the sun, which encourages them to produce chlorophyll and turn green. This should be started 10 days to two weeks before harvesting.
There are a number of blanching methods to choose from, but none of them should be left on more than 10 days to two weeks or the celery stalks will become pithy and rot. Soil can be mounded around each side of the celery row and built up to the tops of the stalks. Or use boards tilted to shade the celery plants. Heavy paper — freezer paper or layers of newspaper — can also be used; wrap it around each plant and fasten it with a rubber band. You can also place milk cartons with the top and bottom cut out over the plant, or gather the stalks together and fit cylinder-shaped tiles over the tops of the plants.
It's some consolation for all the work growing celery demands that the crop has no serious pest problems. This means it's a good choice for the conscientious organic gardener.
Pink rot, black heart, and blights can all attack celery. Magnesium and calcium in the soil discourage these conditions, and with adequate fertilizing you shouldn't have a problem. If you do, check the mineral content of your soil. Detailed information on disease prevention is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Parti.
Time from planting to harvest is 100 to 130 days from transplants, about 20 days longer from seed. A10-footrowshouldyieldabout20 heads of celery. Start harvesting before the first hard frost, when the head is about two to three inches in diameter at the base. Cut off the head at or slightly below soil level.
You can refrigerate celery for up to two weeks; or if you cut the leaves to use as herbs, you can keep the leaves in the refrigerator up to one week. Celery can be dried or canned, and it freezes fairlywell; or you can store it for two to three months in a cold, moist place. The leaves and seeds are used as herbs; follow the procedures given in "How To Store and Use Herbs." Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Celery is versatile. You can eat the stems, the leaves, and the seeds. The stems can be boiled, braised, fried, or baked; most people are more accustomed to celery as a raw salad vegetable or relish, but celery is great creamed or baked au gratin. And what could be more elegant than cream of celery soup? The leafy celery tops that most people throw out can be made into a refreshing drink. Boil and strain them, chill the liquid, and drink it by itself or combined with other vegetable juices.
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