Season for Celery Root October - February
Celery Root Described
Contrary to its name, celery root is not the root of the celery stalks we all know and love... or loathe. This vegetable was actually cultivated during the renaissance for its bulbous, gnarly-looking root. It's certainly related to celery with a taste that could be described as a pungent celery and parsley mix with a nutty twist and the texture of a potato (sans all the starch). Sure, this root vegetable - also called celeriac, knob celery, and turnip-rooted celery - doesn't get points for attractiveness and often doesn't garner a second glance from cooks the worldwide, but this veggie need not be judged by its cover anymore. What you'll find beneath is a creamy, white flesh with a deliciously sweet, smoky flavor.
How to Buy and Store Celery Root
Though celery root can range in size from that of an apple to a small cantaloupe, we recommend going for the smaller specimens, as they won't have voids or tough, fibrous cores. So, choose your celery root for its heaviness when compared to its small size and firmness, avoiding those with soft spots and a lot of rootlets (like the one pictured above!). If you're buying celery root that still has the stems and leaves attached, look for those that are lively and bright green. At home, trim side roots and stalks (which you can use in soups or stalks keeping in mind they have a stronger flavor) and store wrapped in the refrigerator where your celeriac will keep for up to ten days.
How to Cook Celery Root
Celery root may take a bit of cleaning and preparation, but consider it well worth it. Before using, peel (if it's too hard to peel, you can slice off the outside with a knife) and soak briefly in water with a little vinegar or lemon juice to prevent cut surfaces from darkening. You can use celery root as you would a potato in recipes, and although cooked it goes excellently in soups, stew, and other hot dishes like casseroles and gratins, it can also be enjoyed raw. Keep in mind, raw celery root is pretty intense, so grate it and pair with fellow strong flavors that will stand a chance.
Interestingly. the hollow stalk of the upper plant is sometimes cut into drinking straws, rinsed, and used in Bloody Marys, the celery imparting a slight flavor as the cocktail runs up the straw.
Health Benefits of Celery Root
This humble root vegetable packs some serious health benefits: It's high in fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6. What's more, you can think of celery root as a low-calorie high-volume veggie, using them to increase the flavor while simultaneously decreasing the glycemic load of your next plate of mashed potatoes (all you have to do is substitute a portion of your potatoes with celery root). This root is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce high blood pressure, and recent studies suggest the presence of certain phytochemicals called phthalides are responsible for this benefit.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Celery Root
Unfortunately, celery ranks very high on the Environmental Working Group's list of fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues, and celery root can fall right under that. In fact, in 2005 Trapold Farms recalled 638 dozen-pack cases of celery root due to a linuron pesticide contamination. This just goes to show that your celery root is safest, healthiest and tastiest when purchased organically.