Thursday, May 27, 2010
Celery versus Celeriac
A few years ago, I planted a couple clumps of celery just for fun. (I guess that tells you a lot about what my idea of fun really is!) It has a reputation for being a bit 'finicky', yet I found it remarkably easy to grow - perhaps it's our Nova Scotian summers of rain and fog!? Celery does appreciate an ample supply of moisture, as well as a soil well amended with compost or manure.
Now, every spring I plant about 6 celery plants, which is enough for a family of four - unless you really really love celery! We don't eat a lot of celery by itself, but I use it as an aromatic base along with carrots and onions in a variety of foods including soups, lentil stew, chili and pasta dishes.
The first photo was taken last July in the celery patch and you can tell that the plants are almost mature. The bright green stalks are big, crisp and simply delicious!
Perhaps the most important reason to grow celery - it tops the 2010 list from the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides! Last year it was #4 on the list, but now it has reached that dreaded top spot - #1! Why? Many reasons, but because it is a heavily sprayed crop and has no protective skin, it is hard to get celery clean by washing alone.. YIKES! I do buy organic celery 6 months of the year, but the other 6 months, we grow our own.. As you can see from the photo, this year's plants are already about 10-inches tall and almost big enough to start using some of the outer stalks.
Celeriac, on the other hand, is grown for its root, not stalks and is a bit less demanding than celery. It will grow in a variety of soil types. It produces a large, knobby root that tastes like a cross between celery and parsley and has the consistency of a potato when peeled. It's great fresh on a veggie plate, in a stir-fry or in soups and stews.. At this growth stage, it looks very much like celery, but the root will soon start to swell.
Either way, both celery and celeriac should be started indoors about 12 weeks prior to planting out to the garden in mid-spring. Because space under my grow lights is at a premium, I just buy transplants. They are readily available - thanks to increasing demand - and I can usually get 6 good-sized seedlings for about $2.20.
Be warned that slugs like celery too! A bit of diatomaceous earth around your plants can help protect them from these slimy mollusks.