When I first got my half an allotment plot back in January, I had to decide what to try and grow in my first year. I decided to concentrate on things that gave a good return on the effort required to grow them (things like beans and squashes that keep on cropping as you pick), and/or which were particularly tasty when home grown (beetroot, carrots) and/or which were expensive to buy (mange tout, purple sprouting broccoli, purple cauliflower). That meant I didn’t bother with onions or garlic, though I did grow salad onions and will do more next year, as they were delicious. Besides, I’ve never seen purple onions in the supermarket! It didn’t work quite as well in the brassica department, as the token cabbages were the only crop I have had so far, all my cauliflowers and calabrese bolted and my sprouts don’t looks as if they are going to be up to much either. Mind you, I have high hopes of the Purple Sprouting Broccoli donated by M! It also meant that I didn’t try and grow many carrots, and those I did grow – and that were free of carrot root fly damage – were eaten as babies, often raw.

(Actually I think one of the major plus points of growing your own is that you can pick it when very young and not feel guilty – nothing quite beats really young and tender broad beans, peas, carrots, beans.)

There were two slightly less usual vegeatables I was determined to grow, Jerusalem Artichokes and Celeriac.

celeriac

Neither are particularly beautiful looking vegetables, and both can be quite fiddly to prepare, but oh, so worth it! I will wait until the first frost to check out my Jerusalem Artichokes, but I have been eyeing up my one celeriac for weeks now, trying to work out if I thought it would grow any more.

Yes, you read right, my ONE celeriac. I hadn’t ever grown them before, and hadn’t realised that the seedlings like lots of water. Only one of my plants made it to adulthood, at which point it was lovingly transplanted in to well manured soil and watered. A lot. Hopefully next year I will get a better crop – assuming I am here to harvest it – but the main dilemma this year was what to do with my one, fairly paltry, specimen. I love potato and celeriac mash, it makes a great addition to a rich stew, and roasts beautifully too. I had one plant, slightly larger than my fist, weighing in at an unimpressive 440g. So I made soup.

My reasoning was that with TNG being a “if it isn’t Heinz Tomato Soup I’m not interested” man, and MIL away in Arizona, FIL and I would get to enjoy a healthy sized bowlful without feeling bad about not sharing. So I carefully chopped out all the grungy bits, trimmed off all the roots, being careful not to waste anything even remotely usable – and the trimmings went in to the stock pot. I gently sweated the precious chunks of celeriac in some butter with an equal amount of potato, half an onion, some garlic and some seasoning until everything was getting soft (about 15 minutes). I added 500ml of rich ham stock and simmered until everything was tender (about another 40 minutes) and blitzed the result with a hand blender until smooth. OK, so it was only 40 minutes because I wanted to wait until half time, but football is important too!

celeriac soup

As you can see, I like my soup stiff and gloopy, so that you can scoop out a wodge with a chunk of bread. I added some crushed lightly roasted walnuts to the top for crunch, and FIL added some Blue Shropshire. Some home made bread to dunk in, and there it was, lunchtime heaven.

When faced with only one celeriac, I kept telling myself “one is better than none”, and my soup certainly tasted the better for having been at least partly home grown. In the future I hope that it will also be our own onions, garlic and potato. However, there are some circumstances in which one seems pretty pathetic and impossible to turn in to soup.

When I was weeding the end of the roots bed I found that I had actually managed to grow a parsnip after all.

parsnip

One single, solitary parsnip, no bigger than my index finger, though it was perfectly formed. I hadn’t realised that it had managed to hang on amidst the weeds at that end of the bed, but having noticed that I had pulled it up I had a good hunt around for any others. I found one, which I left in place. You never know, it may get larger than one of TNG’s fingers. So I suppose I can legitimately claim to have grown parsnips this year, but I will take next year off. I’ll save the challenge of home grown parsnips for when I have the space for them, onions, garlic, main crop potatoes, and as many celeriac plants as I can nurse to maturity. One day…

40 thoughts on “Celebrating Celeriac

  1. I’m so impressed by your celariac. Mine were about the size of golf balls the time I did try them. They need so much rich soil and watering I didn’t try them again. But the soup is yummy. I find parsnips much easier to grow but the seed has to be fresh (seemingly).

    1. Hi Janet, I was chuffed that the one celeriac I did get was reasonable, if not fantastic. Parsnips remain a project for the future…

  2. I too like soup so thick my family thinks it has gone wrong.

    I dug up my Jerusalem artichokes a few days ago because I need the space. They, along with all my other plants, have been neglected and I was surprised to find there are any under the soil at all – but there were lots of small, tender ones; very sweet and no need to peel.

    1. Oh good, I’m glad I am not the only one – my gravy tends to be another course in itself too. I like the sound of Jerusalem Artichokes so tender they don’t need peeling – maybe I will have an explore…

  3. I’ve never grown celeriac, love it though. Soup so thick you can stand a fork in it is my favourite, the children I have to say look on in horror. Love the accidental parsnip :) bit like linnewsaccidental beets :)

    Enjoy the calm until the chaps return!

    1. Hi Fay, maybe its because thicker soup is so much more satisfying? Your kids, though wonderful in many other respects, clearly need some soup training ;-) I am trying to regard the parsnip as a sign that I shouldn’t give up on them altogether!

    1. The parsnip is a little pathetic, isn’t it! But its mere existence made me smile… “Proof of concept”, as we used to say at the research lab when a demo fell over part way through but showed some promise.

  4. Well done with even one celariac, I tried to grow them on the allotment I used have in the UK, I used to get some, mostly eaten by slugs or snails, I never new. I never really found them worth the space, I might try again here – you’ve inspired me. Christina

    1. Goodness, given how thirsty they seem to be I imagine they could be hard work in your climate. But they are very delicious…

  5. Celeriac and celery are our betes noires but we are going to have another try at celery next year!

    1. You make me fell a whole lot better at only having one Sue, if they defeat someone with your experience. I think I will wait a couple of years before deciding what my own bete noires are, but currently cauliflowers and calabrese are contenders…

  6. You make me feel so hungry every time I read this blog…
    I like celeriac too, my mum used to slice it, dip the slices in egg and them bread crumbles. Then she fried it. Fabulous!
    Parsnip is a sweet memory of when I lived in Brighton. I tried roasted parsnip there for the first time, we are not used to it in Italy and it’s a shame because I love it!

    1. Hi Alberto, your description of breaded fried celeriac literally made my mouth water, I will have to try that if I manage to grow more than one plant next year. Roast parsnips are one of my favourite veges.

  7. I have to admit not knowing celeriac. I would have no idea what to do with one. Same with parsnips too. I put them in stew once and both my husband and myself did not like them one bit. They must be an acquired taste and my husband eats just about anything.

    1. Hi Donna, I only discovered celeriac through the organic veg box we used to get delivered, which thankfully was always accompanied by useful recipes and info about the stranger veg. Am very surprised you didn’t enjoy parsnips. I know some people find them too sweet, but we love them roasted in a little olive oil with squash and carrots.

  8. Mmmmmmmm ~ now that looks like a seriously yummy soup Janet. Now what are you plans for that solitary but most special parsnip?

    1. Hi Anna, the solitary parsnip joined other shop-bought ones and was lightly roasted. I wish I could claim I could pick out our home grown one, but that would be a lie…

    1. I’m afraid I’m not very adventurous with parsnips, I tend to either turn them into soup, or roast them in the oven with a little olive oil until slightly caramelised. That way they make a great accompaniment to a meat dish.

  9. Very impressed by your celeriac. It’s on my ‘to grow’ list for next year. It’s definitely a challenge to get value for space on an allotment. Some plants take up to much space for the amount of meals you can get from them.

    1. That’s exactly it, a little like how in a small garden ornamental plants tend to need to have more than one season of interest to earn their keep.

    1. Good luck if you do decide to give them a go – the secret does seem to be in the watering. Which hopefully I will remember next year.

  10. I figure the first year you grow a vegetable there’s a learning curve and any vegetables that survive are worth a hearty congratulations. A bowl of homemade soup sounds wonderful for your efforts.

    1. Thank you Marguerite, that is is a very useful reminder to keep things in perspective! I always feel I should get everything right first time, which is ridiculous.

  11. Hooray! That’s what it is all about. We have about 20 celeriac, small but perfectly formed: we have mainly been roasting them in wedges, great flavour. Next year I will pay more attention to watering them to get fatter roots too!

    1. Indeed! Though of course now I wish I had my celeriac back again so that I could roast it, as that is a great way to eat them too… Next year!

  12. Vegetable growing is so unreliable. I am either knee deep in something one year, followed by a near famine the following year or vice versa. Brassicas and root crops seem to be the main culprits. I would hate to be dependent only on what I grow.
    I can see that Parsnip as the centre piece of your next meal :-)

    1. I agree, I think self-sufficiency would be a little on the scary side, and have me eating some very strange meals…

  13. Janet, not only have I not grown Celeriac, I haven’t even tasted it. Looks like it may be posh neeps (swedes) for the toffs. Mince, neeps and tatties lovely. Your Parsnip may have been just ready for Christmas. I used to think it had to be Heinz tomato, that was until I found Baxters. Alistair

    1. Hi Alistair, celeriac has a slightly celery-like taste but with earthy overtones, hard to describe really, but really worth trying. A celeriac and potatoe mash would be a good way to start, bet you get hooked – and nothing like neeps, honest!!

  14. When you only have one of something it’s even more special. Sounds like you gave it a very fitting end! I bet the nuts gave it that little bit of extra “Je ne sais quoi”. My six Celeriac sound now like a positive glut…

    1. You definitely have a glut from where I am sitting Mark! The walnuts went really well, I will do that again, though with shop-bought celeriac :-( Until next year…

  15. They’re not easy to grow Janet, rich soil and plenty of water. It’s my first year growing them too and I have never eaten them before so a real first – wouldn’t it be great to grow at least one veg a year that you’ve never eaten before? I have my eye on HFW’s celeriac and chilli gratin as I think I have just enough with 3 plants and an abundance of chilli’s to get through. Just need to buy some cream and everything else is home grown.

    1. Hi Damo, I had my eye on that recipe too, until I only managed to grow the one plant… Mind you, I might still give it a go with shop-bought, just to practice for next year!

      I love the idea of growing something new each year. For me pretty much everything was new this year, so I amended it to “never really eaten it” and grew beetroot and chard. I love the beetroot, and still need some new ideas to convince me about the chard. I really like the young leaves, but the older ones I am having problems with. Good in gratin though.

      BTW as a fellow curry lover – and the person who put me on to Madhur Jaffrey’s madras recipe – do you have her Curry Bible? Superb…

  16. Great to see a worthwhile crop at the end of allotment work! I always avoided Celeriacs because they reminded me of school anatomy lessons, slicing and staining rats brains. Then a few years ago chose a creamy side dish to accompany my fish dish and discovered that this neurological veg is delicious. Your soup is even more tempting though I’d have grated that little parsnip over it as garnish. Will be following your step-bystep guide without the footie interval.

    1. Hi Laura, not sure it will taste the same without the footie interval!! Wish I’d thought of grating the parsnip, that would have been a fitting end, two singleton veges playing well together.

  17. I missed this post somehow… I harvested a celeriac yesterday (my first time of trying too), and all I had were roots – lots and lots of roots – and a slightly swollen root about the size of a golf ball. I’ve got others, but I’m not expecting anything much – the one I harvested was the best. Ho Hum.

    BTW: check out celeriac and apple soup (I think the late John Tovey had a recipe). It was one of my – vegetarian – mother’s faves and tastes astonishingly like roast pork. Yummy.

    1. Oooh, celeriac and apple sounds like a wonderful combination. Sorry your own celeriac is so disappointing. They seem to need the same conditions as squash plants, lots of rich soil and plenty of water. Wish I’d realised before I was down to just one plant! Better luck to both of us next year.

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