Celeriac - The ugly root!
Last month I wrote about how the renewed interest in growing plants for their culinary uses is an opportunity for our industry to build a whole new generation of gardeners. It is a one off chance that won’t hang around for long so we need to make the most of it. The first two weekends of October saw two popular garden shows draw in crowds of gardeners. We had a stand at both of them and I spent some time talking to the general public about plants and how they can be used.
We generally do one to four shows a year. We often question the value of them as far as sales and promotion but always find that the understanding and connection with the public is incalculable. The garden shows like ABC have attendees with a high level of garden and plant knowledge. The second show we attended was the Baw Baw Garden and Home Show. Here there was a broad mix of people – some with great plant knowledge and a passion for one or more plant types. Then there were those who came to look at home wares but also checked out the nursery stands. Their knowledge was minimal but they were keen to have the outside of their house as nice and practical as the inside.
In both cases we found that people were happy to learn more about the plants we were selling and how to use them in their everyday life. We have a range of unusual, different and common food plants. Most of them are herb or herb like and they all add to our daily lives. When we took over the Victorian franchise for Renaissance Herbs we knew a lot about many plants and having run a restaurant I had a good idea of food, herbs and spices. However the learning since then has been huge as the world of fresh grown herbs is fascinating. It is astounding how many plants we can grow in Australian gardens that can also stimulate the taste buds. Then there is the world of ‘medicinal’ type plants. A complicated world at best.
Whenever I was able to talk about a new herb or different veggie people were interested. Often simply talking about how to use it was enough for them to buy one. One plant I have recently learnt to cook and use is Celeriac. Many customers knew of the plant, or at least the product we harvest from it but had no idea of how to use it. Neither did I until a year or so when I thought that as I sold it I should learn how to cook it.
Celeriac is that ugly looking root vegetable that we see in most green grocers or fruit and veggie departments. Although it attracts the eye we don’t normally buy it as we really are not sure how to prepare it or what it will taste like. This is where nurseries can step in and win over long term gardeners. A simple bit of education will get a sale and a repeat customer.
Celeriac is a very easy plant to grow. It transplants easily from the pot. The new growth has a great celery flavour that adds to sandwiches, salads and soups. This can be used as you would parsley or even coriander. Put in soups and stir fries just prior to serving to give a fresh celery like flavour. Where the plant really comes to the fore is in using the root. I describe it as a celery flavoured potato.
It is generally available from mid autumn to late winter. It has a rough exterior with a firm white interior. It is relatively high in fibre and comparatively low in starch making it a healthy alternative to potatoes. The flavour is similar to fresh celery. It is easy to cook and can be baked, steamed, boiled and fried. My favorites are as a soup, baked with potatoes cream and nutmeg or as a salad. Try this recipe your self, print it off and give it to staff and customers. Encourage them both to experiment and learn how easy it is to cook with fresh produce from their own gardens.
Tangy Celeriac Salad.
Ingredients; 600gm Celeriac, 2 cloves of garlic (crushed), small piece of ginger (grated), tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander and fresh dill, 3 tablespoons of olive oil juice of one lime.
Directions; Peel and wash celeriac. Cut into 1cm cubes. Put celeriac, garlic and ginger in a pot of water, cover and cook for 10 -15 mins or until soft. Remove from heat, drain water and allow to cool. Whilst this is cooking mix remaining ingredients and put aside. When celeriac has cooled toss with remaining ingredients garnish with parsley, coriander, celeriac leaf or similar and serve.