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What is Celeriac?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Celeriac is a special variety of celery that is cultivated specifically for its large, robust, and rather ugly root. The root vegetable has a number of aliases, including knob celery, turnip rooted celery, or just celery root. There are a number of raw and cooked uses for it, and it is an enduring favorite in European cuisine. Outside of Europe, celeriac can sometimes be difficult to find, but open-minded greengrocers may carry it. It can also be grown in any garden where celery will thrive.

The history of the plant is quite long. Celery has been cultivated as an edible plant for thousands of years, and Mediterranean gardens began to breed a form of celeriac hundreds of years ago. In the Middle Ages, it spread from the Mediterranean, finding its way into Northern European cuisine. Asian cooks also use the vegetable, which is considered to be a varietal within the celery species, Apium graveolens. French cuisine in particular has a number of uses for it, and it appears in salads, soups, and other dishes as a star ingredient or a garnish.

The growing period for celeriac is long, and the roots can take up to 200 days to fully mature. When mature, the portion of the plant that grows above the ground looks much like common celery, with an assortment of stalks arranged around a central point on the root. When harvested, the knobby root with trailing threads of roots is revealed. The root has a slightly spicy flavor that reminds many people of parsley and celery, unsurprisingly, since these plants are close relatives.

Once peeled, celeriac is creamy white and crisp inside. Some cooks use it raw, and it is popular grated in a salad. Since the root tends to discolor as is oxidizes, many cooks briefly soak it in acidulated water (water with an acid added) or marinate it in lemon juice. Celeriac can also be cooked, and is generally treated like other root vegetables.

When selecting celeriac in the store, consumers should look for a root that is as smooth as possible, and firm with no soft spots, which indicate decay. The root can be stored under refrigeration for seven to 10 days, and often lasts much longer in the right conditions. A root cellar is the ideal place to store it, and it can keep for up to four months in a cool, dry root cellar.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Sep 05, 2012

@simrin-- Celeriac (and celery too) are full of nutrition and vitamins but they can be kind of bland if they're not prepared correctly.

From my experience, celeriac is great in stews where it is simmered in flavorful sauces and broths. Celeriac root especially is good at absorbing flavors but keep in mind that the root cooks much faster than the stalks.

You should try an orange celeriac recipe which is basically celeriac root cooked in olive oil and orange juice. It's really delicious and the celeriac becomes sweet and very flavorful.

By SteamLouis — On Sep 05, 2012

@surreallife-- I tried celeriac plant root once although I'm not sure what type it was.

It was okay, I guess I just wasn't used to the flavor. It's just not sweet at all. It smells like celery but it's very bland and the texture is interesting. It was served raw as a salad and I had some trouble digesting it later.

I'm not a huge fan of celery in general. I'll have it if it's included in a salad and with dressing or dip. But it's not something I prefer to eat everyday.

By ZipLine — On Sep 04, 2012

@anon82503-- Yea, you can eat the stalks but I think it's better cooked than raw.

I've never bought celeriac in the United States. My family is from the Mediterranean and if I go to visit during the winter, celeriac dishes are often on the table.

I've never seen celeriac eaten raw in my family. My mom cooks with the whole plant-- the stalks and the root. One dish she makes is celeriac soup with chicken and tomato sauce. It's so good! I love that soup.

When I'm in the States, I can't really find celeriac. I can find celery but the root is usually missing or just too small to make a meal out of it.

By anon82503 — On May 06, 2010

Can i eat the stalks of celeriac safely?

By surreallife — On Jul 30, 2008

There are several varieties of celeriac. Marble ball stores well over winter and has strong flavor. Tellus is a quick growing variety, that stays white after it has been boiled. There is also Giant Prague, Snow White and Iram. If you like celery you will probably like celeriac too.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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