The root of good flavour

Cel­ery and cele­riac are ver­sa­tile, nu­tri­tious and burst­ing with flavour

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD - CARMEL SOMERS

Cele­riac and cel­ery are two won­der­fully pli­able in­gre­di­ents that are very closely re­lated. They are mem­bers of the same fam­ily and are often con­fused for be­ing from the same plant. Cele­riac, other­wise mis­lead­ingly known as cel­ery root, is not ac­tu­ally the root of the cel­ery plant. Cele­riac grows con­versely to cel­ery; it is pri­mar­ily used for its root. If you are lucky enough to get cele­riac freshly picked, though, the stalks and leaves are also ed­i­ble and are, like most things, de­li­cious when slowly cooked in but­ter.

Cele­riac is a win­ter veg­etable with a shelf life of up to eight months when stored prop­erly. It’s very ver­sa­tile, con­ve­nient – can be eaten raw or cooked – and it’s easy to pre­pare, which often leads me to won­der why it’s not more preva­lent and ap­pre­ci­ated.

Even though cele­riac is a root veg­etable, it grows mainly above ground. I can still re­call the first time I saw it in a gar­den. It was a frosty morn­ing in Som­er­set and, on a wan­der in the gar­den of the bed and break­fast I was stay­ing in, I was en­thralled by the rows of frosted roots burst­ing from the ground. Like most win­ter root veg­eta­bles, its flavour is in­ten­si­fied af­ter a good frost.

Cel­ery, on the other hand, is avail­able year- round and is in­dis­pens­able in our kitchen. Its promi­nence is mainly in Euro­pean dishes, even though I do find my­self adding it into cur­ries and sal­sas, es­pe­cially when there are a few lone sticks star­ing at me sadly from the bot­tom of the fridge. Cel­ery is mainly used for its stalks and leaves, quite the op­po­site of its cousin cele­riac. Cel­ery is loaded with vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and fi­bre, as well as be­ing hy­drat­ing. Along with onions and gar­lic, it’s one of my top three base veg­eta­bles – un­like cele­riac, with it’s pro­found flavour al­low­ing it to stand alone.

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