Whether it’s used to make a warming soup, nutty mash or crunchy coleslaw, celeriac is just the vegetable to bring a distinctive flavour injection to winter dishes.
This knobbly root is a hardy cousin of celery, with which it shares a similar taste, and can be harvested at any time between October and March.
Sow celeriac seeds under a propagator in March or April and bring on the young seedlings in a glasshouse or cold frame, taking care to protect them from excessive cold.
Harden them off in May and then plant them in fertile and moist soil, preferably in full sun, and water well during dry spells.
Remove any side shoots and take off horizontal-growing outer leaves to allow the crown to swell. Harvest as required.
Pests affecting celeriac include slugs and snails, which feast on its young leaves, and celery leaf miner. Keep an eye on plants for signs of the brown marks caused by celery leaf spot.
Flavoursome varieties of celeriac include ‘Prinz’, which is resistant to leaf disease and bolting, and ‘Alabaster’, which produces a good yield. ‘Monarch’ is noted for its succulent flesh and smooth skin.
My French garden
What was the garden like when you first arrived?
There was no garden as such. The 7,000m2 plot we bought in 2007 was entirely pasture, with a number of mature trees and hedges.
How have you developed it?
British expat Peter Clark and his French partner Vincent Caplier bought a plot of land in Somme in Picardy in 2007 and built an eco-responsible house and B&B. They also developed an organic garden and are now mostly self-sufficient Our first priority was to consolidate the hedges in and around the property. We then prepared the location of the future vegetable garden, tilling it straight away to allow the soil time to develop before the first planting and sowing. Once construction of the house was finished in early 2009, we created beds and borders of shrubs and
perennials along with wild flower meadows. As time has gone by, we have developed the flower beds and added ornamental and fruit trees.
What grows well in your
area of France?
Pretty much everything! The climate here is temperate with an oceanic influence and regular rainfall, so we can cultivate most types of ornamental plants. Winters, however, can be a bit harsh so we have to protect less hardy plants.
What is your favourite thing to do in the garden?
It’s nice to wander around the
garden and observe how simple actions and respect for natural principles can have a really positive impact on the species living there. In the last six years, we’ve seen marked increases in the bird population and the variety of insect life. We never tire of observing our pond which has developed into a real ecosystem, typifying our approach.
What are your tips for developing an ecoresponsible garden?
Respect the existing natural balance and reinforce it by encouraging beneficial insects and other organisms, for example, by planting wild flower meadows. Also, encourage the growth of hedges, which provide nesting places and food sources for birds. Use nettle extract and other natural products to stimulate growth and discourage ravagers. Avoid bad habits such as allowing an infestation to occur and then reaching for an insecticide, even an organic-acceptable one like Pyrethrum; prevention is much better than cure. lesmazures.com