The root of good flavour
Celery and celeriac are versatile, nutritious and bursting with flavour
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.