Celeriac brings an unwanted surprise for Charlotte Philcox
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.