Until this year, pumpkins have reigned supreme as our most successful homegrown garden produce. It would be easier to say our best veg, but it isn’t. Squashes are fruit since they have their seeds inside them. But I digress. To the kids’ horror, pumpkins have done brilliantly allowing me to fill the freezer with pumpkin purée. Chris and I are rather partial to pumpkin soup, and Caiti whips up the occasional delicious pumpkin pie, but generally it’s not a favourite amongst the junior Daggs.
However, pumpkins have been usurped. We have another king of the potager. Celeriac! The kids are possibly even more horrified. We only discovered the vegetable recently when Chris pureed some to go with Beef Bourgignon. It’s delicious so I picked up a packet of seeds and planted some in the greenhouse. In point of fact, Ruadhri planted them and unintentionally sowed them very thickly. However, nothing happened for a long time so I’d written them off. Then suddenly, nearly a month after being sown, they began to emerge. We had literally hundreds of celeriac seedlings. I’ve since found out it’s what’s called a long season plant, taking well over 100 days from sowing until it’s ready to be consumed.
This week I finally got round to planting them out, coincidentally at the same time as the hunky Monty Don on BBC’s Gardeners’ World. He must have heard what I was up to and decided to get his in too! It has taken several soggy sessions but I now have two very long rows of celeriac, with still a few dozen to be put out. And it looks as happy as anything in our heavy clay soil. We’re going to have a good crop.
Celeriac is slightly odd vegetable. It’s basically celery with a big fat root. It’s the root bit you eat once you’ve peeled it and sliced it. It’s very hard, like turnip, so needs a good cooking before it softens up. Alternatively, you can grate it and eat it like that. It has a beautiful celeryish flavour. It’s the main ingredient in that French salad staple celeri remoulade, which I’m sure you must have indulged in at some time. It’s also very low calorie and fat free so it’s a very healthy veg. It stores well too.
Celeriac is related to carrots, anise, parsley and parsnips. The Greeks and other early civilisations believed it had medicinal properties. But France is really home to celeriac. It was first recorded as a food plant in 1623 here and has been immensely popular ever since. A little late in the day we’ve cottoned on to this deservedly popular vegetable.
Move over pumpkins!