Celeriac are botanical varieties of the common celery, also called “celery head” or “celery of Verona”.
Celeriac are root vegetables and, in fact, unlike celery from the coast, the root is consumed.
Very common in Northern Europe, they are also cultivated in the northern regions of Italy, but are almost unknown in the south.
Their botanical name is Apium graveolens var. rapaceum and they belong to the Apiaceae family, such as parsley and fennel.
Very different from the classic celery, celeriac reaches a height of 30 cm and are presented with a large root globose and bitorzoluta, brown externally and white inside. They have dark green leaves, with hollow stems inside.
Despite their unattractive shape, celeriac has a delicate taste and, for this reason, they are very suitable for the preparation of many recipes: excellent raw in salads or cooked in soups, they are also delicious gratinated in the oven or fried in a pan.
There are many recipes that enhance the flavor and take advantage of the dietary and nutritional characteristics.
Celeriac has few calories and many nutritional properties.
They consist, in fact, of:
- about 90% of water;
- mineral salts, such as iron, potassium, manganese, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and copper;
- vitamins A, B and C.
Thanks to this, they have remineralizing, antioxidant and detoxifying properties, are diuretics and purifiers for the body and have a tonic, expectorant and digestive action.
Celeriac is used both in the kitchen and in homeopathic and naturalist therapies. They are recommended in diets for people with digestive difficulties, in case of asthenia and to recover during a convalescence.
Celeriac, however, could be a potentially allergenic food for sensitive individuals and those predisposed to food allergies.
Cultivating Celeriac in the Garden
The cultivation of celeriac is not very difficult, but it has a fairly long cultivation cycle every two years. This vegetable has, in fact, a very slow growth, which provides for 4 to 5 months before harvesting.
For this reason, it is normally planted one season earlier than necessary, usually in spring, with a harvest that starts in the last weeks of August and continues until the beginning of December, before the frosts arrive.
In addition, many recommend transplanting it after a period of growth in a seedbed.
Celeriac can also be grown in pots, even if this last modality is quite rare, because we should have very big and deep containers.
When Should Celeriac be Sown?
The direct sowing of celeriac in the field can take place in March-April, when temperatures do not drop below 10 C°. You have to keep the plants at least 30 cm from each other, because they develop a very bulky root.
Before planting, the soil must be worked well in depth. The soil must be rich in organic matter, with a medium mixture and not clayey, to avoid the formation of water stagnation, harmful to the growth of the plants.
Although celeriac is quite resistant to low temperatures, it prefers to be exposed to the full sun.
Watering must be constant in the summer months and of greater drought. The soil should be kept constantly moist, but water stagnation should be avoided. A slight mulching could contribute to this.
Before planting, the soil should be fertilized with mature manure, pelleted manure or domestic compost. The fertilization is then to be repeated once a year, maybe with the addition of wood ash to the classical fertilizer, in order to increase the quantity of phosphorus and potassium.
The period for harvesting celeriac varies depending on the area and the planting of the plants, however it generally runs from August to December, before the cold arrives.
Celeriac contains quite high doses of androsterone, a steroid hormone that has similar activity to testosterone, but with much less potency.
In the past, it was believed to have great aphrodisiac properties, but it was mainly used as a medicinal plant to ward off melancholy.