After a whole season of going without our CSA I was so excited to pick up our first batch of winter produce today. You see, for me a trip to the farmers market is about more than just food. There’s a story that goes with each vegetable. It’s much more personal to me. I feel an obligation to use everything we get, regardless of what it is, because I associate each piece of food with a farmer. A real, local farmer. Who has feelings and those feelings will be hurt if I do not appreciate what he or she produced.
I also appreciate the challenge of trying to cook what we get. It takes me out of my comfort zone and lets me experiment with items I would probably never tried before.
So when I marched in there today I thought “Bring it on, CSA! Give me your best shot!”
And in return, I got this:
Well played, farmer! You’ve stumped me.
This thing is a celery root. If you’re like me and have no idea what the hell it is or what to do with it, you are in good company! Luckily for us there’s an infinite number of resources to help us solve this mystery. Here’s what Wise Geek has to say about celery root:
Celery root, also called celeriac, is an edible root vegetable in the celery family. The stalks and leaves of celery root strongly resemble celery, although they are not very good to eat. Celery root itself is a lumpy tuber of unprepossessing appearance, although it packs an excellent taste and is used throughout European cuisine, especially in France.
In flavor, the root resembles a concentrated version of celery, with a spicy hint of parsley. Celery root can be used in any recipe that calls for celery, and a variety of others as well. Celery root is superb roasted, added to gratins, or added to soups and stews. Celery root can also be eaten raw in thin slices on salads and appetizers, and it adds a zesty crunch. Some cooks also mash roasted winter root vegetables together, including celery root, for an updated version of mashed potatoes with more flavor and zest.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. The more I read about it, the more I like this ugly little guy!
If your market is like mine you get to pick your own produce from the bin, so use this advice from about.com on how to buy, store, and prepare celery root:
BUYING: Look for celery roots that feel heavy for their size. If any greenery or bits of stalk are discernible on the top of the root, they should be fresh looking and neither dried out nor slimey or wilted. Celery root are notoriously difficult to peel because of the hairy peel and its many nooks and crannies, so look for specimens with as smooth as exterior as possible (be warned: they only get so smooth).
STORING: Since celery root is a root vegetable, it stores well and for a long time as long as it is kept cool. It also enjoys the dark (having spent most of its life underground). Kept loosely wrapped in plastic the fridge it will last up to a week or two.
PREPARING: Celery root needs to be peeled – and be aggressive when you do it. Remove all of the slightly hairy brown exterior to reveal the creamy, solid flesh inside.
At this point I’m still not sure what we’re going to do with him, but I’ll keep you updated.
Now it’s your turn: Have you ever used celery root before? What do you like to do with it?