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Putting in a Good Word

November 12, 2013

The first seed catalog arrived more than a week ago!  What’s up with that?  Christmas displays in stores before Halloween – I guess it’s only fair that the seed marketers get on the bandwagon too.  They probably know us better than we think though, even if this wasn’t a company I buy seeds from, they probably have a sneaking suspicion my thoughts are leaning towards making up my seed lists for next year’s garden.  They’re right too, I am.  While I like seed saving as much as the next gardener, I like growing hybrids too.  My box of last tomatoes sitting in the hallway is predominately hybrid New Girl, with the fluted open pollinated Pantano Romanensco filling in the blanks.  But I didn’t want to post about tomatoes, I worked in the greenhouse yesterday putting that garden space to bed, so I’ll do a post about that tomorrow.  I’ve moved onto winter food and I want to put a plug in for a quiet player in my garden that I think needs a little attention so other gardens can learn it’s virtues.  Celeriac.

Brilliant celeriac

Brilliant celeriac

mid-March 2013

mid-March 2013

From my perspective celeriac gets a bad rap like turkeys do.  All the old wives tales get repeated time and after time.  Too fussy, needs constant attention, dies at the drop of a hat.  Just insert the words turkey or the celeriac into those sentences.  I have to say, though I haven’t found those things to be true about either turkeys or celeriac, unless of course, you don’t pay attention to what the needs of those two things are.

Talk about slow food, celeriac is the vegetable for that.  I seeded my celeriac this year March 13, it germinates slow, and grows slow.  That’s a good thing right?  After a time, I move the tender seedlings from a 200 cell flat to a 48 cell, and about the time it is ready to transplant around the first of June, there is just enough time for it to establish and start putting out its roots.  And that folks is one of the many things I like about celeriac, it puts out so many roots it is a perfect candidate for my dryland gardening.  Moisture gatherer extraordinaire.   So while that may not make much difference to folks who irrigate, it makes a huge difference to me.  This is just one more vegetable I can grow that isn’t too fussy once I can get it to the stage that it can make it on its own.  Plus it tastes good too.  The leaves and stalks are the best for flavoring many meals, the root is delicious, and if you grow enough to save over winter, you can plant them out and get seed too.  At our house the root poses as a potato substitute since my husband is allergic to potatoes.

It’s not quite as cold hardy as our other root vegetables, sometimes we squeak by without it freezing, and other times I lift some and store them so they won’t freeze.  Another way I have been saving it and the delicious tops is to make this vegetable bouillon for the freezer.  It’s a great way to save the fresh vegetable flavor, and use up odds and ends of vegetables you may have around, I usually skip the fennel in the recipe, and substitute a little more celery root because that is usually what I have on hand.  The amount of salt in this recipe sounds high, but you either leave out some salt or just use more water when cooking.  Personally, I leave the salt portion alone because I think it preserves the vegetables better, and add more water to taste.

early July - main garden

early July – main garden

There they are – second row from the left, limping along and probably praying for rain and all the while building a massive root wad.

firmly rooted

firmly rooted

One thing though, you  just don’t casually go out to the garden and pull on these puppies out of the ground like a carrot or beet.  I do have to take the spading fork with me to break the roots and loosen things up a bit.

Once you have lifted the celery root a bit with the spading fork, you can pull the plant out.  I want to save the good stalks and leaves, so I have to be careful.

You can see why this plant is so good at searching out water.

leave that soil in the garden

leave that soil in the garden

Shake as much soil out of the root wad as possible.

Yeah, now we're talking!

Yeah, now we’re talking!

It was dry yesterday, so that part was pretty easy.  Wet harvest day – much more difficult.

multi-purpose vegetable - leaves, stems and root

multi-purpose vegetable – leaves, stems and root

Obviously my dryland celery roots aren’t like the specimens you see in the store.  But they are big enough, certainly you can irrigate if you want, I’m just here to say it’s not necessary.  Peak water is more on my mind than peak oil… .  When you consider that the root in the store is missing the stalks, I have a lot of vegetable here for the kitchen that is so much more than just the root.  I’ve grown leaf celery and plain old celery, and celeriac wins hands down for space-saving and harvest amounts time after time.  All summer long I can pluck a leaf here and there for salads or other dishes and as long as I don’t get too greedy it doesn’t seem to matter.

So I guess I want to put in a good word for that ugly root, celeriac.  I find it fits in pretty good here and is definitely worth a try.  And while I am it, we’ve been enjoying side shoot production on the romanesco.  Normally I pull the plants for the hens after we harvest the heads, but this year I just hadn’t got to it yet and noticed they were starting to push some teeny tiny fractal heads.  You might want to add romanesco to your seed list too.

Romanesco side-shoots

veronica F1 romanesco side-shoots

12 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2013 11:02 am

    I agree celeriac is a much overlooked vegetable — and so expensive to buy. Unfortunately, we just don’t get enough cool weather for long enough to grow either it or stalk varieties here.

    • November 12, 2013 12:36 pm

      Nicolec, sounds like the opposite of us having a hard time getting warm weather crops to mature.

      • November 12, 2013 2:15 pm

        No doubt! Lack of hot summer weather is one thing we never have trouble with in Alabama.

  2. Ben permalink
    November 12, 2013 3:53 pm

    We finally got some good sized Celeriac this year. I’m the envy of the growers at the market ;). Customers don’t actually really buy it much but a chef was begging me to let her buy some, cracking me up. Gotta love those chefs who love their veggies!

  3. Cindy permalink
    November 12, 2013 3:54 pm

    The year that I planted and ignored my celeriac, I had huge root balls and the center the size of bowling balls… the past two years, when I have irrigated and fussed and begged – top leaves and a wad of roots and nothing inbetween. What am I doing wrong???

  4. November 12, 2013 4:12 pm

    I think I’ll take your advice, on both counts!

  5. wildriver permalink
    November 13, 2013 2:08 am

    Just out of curiosity, you must build up quite a pile of dirt under your washing station, do you move the washing station, or the dirt periodically?

    • November 13, 2013 5:53 am

      wildriver, it doesn’t really build up, see photo 7 in the post. What does fall there just make the grass grow better.

  6. November 13, 2013 3:19 am

    I’ve always looked forward to a treacherous walk down a snow and ice covered hill to find the seed catalogs stuffed in the mail box in February. It was always a signal that cabin fever was soon to be broken and dreams of digging my fingers into freshly tilled soil was not far off. It’s almost as bad as the year round election campaigns or Christmas decorations before Halloween.

    • November 13, 2013 5:49 am

      Woody, I know exactly what you mean, now the candy, jewelry ad campaigns begin too and no let up until Valentines! Another seed catalog came yesterday – at least this was one I wanted 😦 Political campaigns, our school district wanted a new bond, because the old one was running out…gotta keep that payment going you know. Anyway the school itself sent out mailers constantly pleading their case, telling us where to vote and why. That used to be illegal, still is, but the admin deemed that it was “communicating with the taxpayers” not trying to garner votes. Bah Humbug!

  7. Catherine permalink
    November 13, 2013 4:40 am

    Love learning something new. Thank you for sharing your experience. LOVE your garden, I guess you could say to the point of garden envy…….

  8. November 13, 2013 9:12 am

    That is an amazing rootball!

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