Cele­riac brings an un­wanted sur­prise for Char­lotte Philcox

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Har­vest­ing the hip­ster of the vegetable world

Ihave just har­vested the first suc­cess­ful cele­riac I’ve ever grown. Mind you, it took a bit of welly to tug this un­ap­petis­ing look­ing vegetable out of the ground. If you’ve ever seen a cele­riac in its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, you’ll un­der­stand why, as they are huge, knob­bly beasts (at least the good ones are), with masses of top growth, and a tan­gle of whiskery roots.

Af­ter a lot of strain­ing and puff­ing on my part, this par­tic­u­lar cele­riac emerged from the soil look­ing like an ex­tremely hairy baby’s head - one al­ready sprout­ing a proper hip­ster beard, which I’m sure would be enough to ter­rify any new par­ent (un­less, of course, they were hip­sters too). De­spite this, my re­sult­ing sense of ma­ter­nal pride knew no bounds. Un­for­tu­nately, the des­ti­na­tion for my new­born was the soup pot, although I didn’t tell it that at the time.

So, with my vic­tim dan­gling from my hand, I set off for the com­post heap, where I at­tempted to chop off the leafy green stems grow­ing from its top. Tack­ling the roots was some­thing else, how­ever, and as I hacked away, the vegetable grew smaller and smaller, un­til there wasn’t an aw­ful lot left. Af­ter giv­ing it a quick rinse in the wa­ter butt, I re­treated in­doors, to com­plete my task. I was be­gin­ning to won­der if it was all worth it.

Thirty min­utes later, I was stand­ing at the sink, still scrub­bing away at my prospec­tive sup­per. By this time, ev­ery sur­face within a me­tre was spat­tered with soil. And then, just as I was mak­ing the fi­nal ex­am­i­na­tion of the nether re­gions of my cele­riac, some­thing moved. I squealed, and dropped the vegetable into the wash­ing up bowl, spray­ing muddy wa­ter ev­ery­where. To my hor­ror, I had just de­cap­i­tated a small worm, which had been hid­ing in­no­cently un­der a root.

Feel­ing hor­ri­bly guilty, and slightly sick (which was noth­ing like as bad as it must have been for the poor worm), I de­cided to look for a good soup recipe - namely one which didn’t in­clude worms as an in­gre­di­ent. How­ever, none of my cook­books had much to say about cele­riac (or worms), and for once, even my favourite chefs seemed de­cid­edly am­bigu­ous.

Glanc­ing back at the cele­riac, which was by now the size of a ten­nis ball, I de­cided to blun­der on with its fi­nal de­struc­tion. Soon, it was sim­mer­ing away in a pot, with onion, a small potato and some stock. My sup­per smelled and looked about as in­ter­est­ing as in­stant por­ridge, and my ap­petite was start­ing to wane.

In the end, it wasn’t nearly so bad as I’d an­tic­i­pated. In fact, with the ad­di­tion of a few se­cret in­gre­di­ents, my soup be­came a cre­ation wor­thy of the posh­est restau­rants - and prob­a­bly cost as much in time and ef­fort to make. Though thank­fully for ev­ery­one con­cerned, a side or­der of earth­worms was def­i­nitely off the menu.

jlm­clough­lin/iS­tock/Thinkstock An un­wanted sur­prise for Char­lotte.

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