CELERIAC – ONE VERY UGLY, BUT TASTY, ROOT|
Also known as celery root, knob celery, turnip rooted celery, and céleri
rave, raw celeriac appears inedible at first glance. Gnarled and bulbous,
dark brown in color, it hardly inspires by virtue of its appearance alone...
but start to scrub or peel that unattractive exterior, and you
will soon be overwhelmed by its delicious aroma, a pungent mix reminiscent
of black pepper, celery, and earth. The taste is similar — very strong, and
not, I think, for the timid of palate, since celery salt is often made
commercially from celery root extract.
Celeriac contains key nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous, calcium,
and vitamin C, as well as a good amount of dietary fiber and a small amount
of some B vitamins. Celeriac is not actually the root of the celery which we
regularly eat, but is instead a special variety of celery, developed
especially for its large root by gardeners in Northern Europe and the
Mediterranean as far back as the Renaissance period. Celery and celeriac
are known for having anti-inflammatory properties, and are often recommended
for people with arthritis or rheumatism. Celeriac is a member of the umbel
family of plants that also includes parsley, carrots and fennel.
This nutritious root may be enjoyed either raw or cooked, in a variety of ways.
The leaves are edible and may be chopped and added to salads and soups, or
enjoyed as traditional greens. Celeriac can be baked, whole, in its skin
(scrub very well with a brush first, to clean, then prick with a fork) or
simply peeled, boiled, and mashed. Slice, batter and fry it as you would
zucchini or eggplant. Cube it and add to soups and stews; slice it and add
to stir-frys. Boil for use in cold salads, etc. (Unlike some root vegetables,
celeriac should be added to already boiling, salted water, and then returned
to a simmer). Raw celeriac can be shredded or julienned for salads, but is
best if first blanched (immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge
immediately into ice water). The blanching process will help to remove any
bitter taste. Raw celeriac should always be tossed with something acidic
such as lemon juice, as it will brown very quickly untreated in the open air.
By the time it is peeled, a 1 pound celeriac will yield about two cups, sliced
or grated. Per cup (156 g), raw celeriac has just 60 calories with 14 g
carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, and 2 g protein.