Growing up, I was always told to never judge a book by its cover. Well, that applies to vegetables as well. Celeriac is not the prettiest of veggies. The dark green celery stalk and leaves are attractive enough, but its the root that's the problem. This gnarly, tan colored orb partially sticks out of the ground when mature and when you rip it out of the bed (it can be tenacious to pull out of the soil), I feel like it should be screaming like mandrakes from a Harry Potter movie. It's really not a pretty picture.
But if you take the time to clean and remove the outer skin, what's revealed is clear, white flesh with a parsley and celery flavor. I've grown to love celeriac and grow it every year in our garden.
It takes patience to grow this crop. You need to start seeds indoors now and transplant them out after all danger of frost has past. Plant in well-drained soil and keep the bed watered and weeded. Celeriac doesn't compete well with other plants. Then just forget about it until late summer. By then the bulbous root should have formed and you can start harvesting. There are different varieties of celeriac, such as 'Mars' and 'Brilliant', but they seem to perform equally well. Celeriac is popular in Eastern Europe, France and Italy, but only sporadically in America. Its history dates back to the days of Homer and the Odyssey. But it wasn't popular in Europe until the 17th century. I like roasting it with other roots, shaving it raw in salads and, of course, making the famous French dish, celeri remoulade.
And now for this week's tip, as you're pruning your fruit trees this month, don't throw out all those trimmings. Select ones with fat flower buds on them, cut them to 2 feet long and bring them indoors to force in a vase of warm water. Soon you'll be enjoying apple, cherry and plum blossoms weeks before they bloom outside.
Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about bleeding hearts. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.
The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com.