The root of the celery root is indeed deeply rooted. It predates the Oddssey, accompanied Tutankhamun on his much celebrated journey to the sumptuous afterlife and, legend has it, was initially nourished by the blood of the underworld deity, Kadmilos. The Greeks, oddly enough, wove its leaves into crowns for both their dead and their Olympiad champions. If there is a message in there, I fear it has defeated me.
This vegetable hails from the Mediterranean Basin though it is now cultivated on every continent except Antarctica. When Charlemagne developed a list of mandatory vegetables for cultivation in imperial gardens, celery and its root were included. A variety of cultures have employed celery, stalk, stem, root and seed, as medicine, aphrodisiac, spice and cornerstone food. It still plays significant roles in the culinary holy trinities of the world-class cuisines such as the French of Mirepoix: a blend of diced celery, onion and carrot and Cajun and Creole combination of diced celery, onions and bell peppers form the base of gumbos, jabalayas and étouffées. Likewise, celery is found in the underpinnings of uncountable stew and soups.
The root ball of celery is known as knob celery, celeriac, and celery root. When young, the root has a more intense flavor than the stalk, but as it reaches the peak of maturity, the intensity lessens. It can be eaten raw or cooked. We have previously published two recipes using raw celeriac called Crab, Celeriac and Taragon Salad and Crab and Celeriac Salad with Lemon Chive Dressing which are available on the website. This week, in keeping with the season’s yearnings, we have cooked and pureed the bulb in Celeriac Pureé, a marvelous alternative veggie low in calories and carbs.