Celery root is the wrinkly old geezer of the vegetable world. When the root is freshly unearthed, dirt clings to its cracks, crevices, and spindly tentacles like crankiness to an octogenarian, daring pickers to begin the cleaning and trimming required to transform it from a many-fingered Sasquatch claw into the knobby, softball-size vegetable we find hidden with the other ugly orphans of the produce section.
Under its thick skin, celeriac, as it’s also known, is far less cantankerous, and even a little beautiful. The bright but gentle flavor balances somewhere between celery, parsley, and artichoke, with a texture similar to a very dense potato. Unlike a potato, however, it can be enjoyed raw; simply trim off its five o’clock shadow with a small knife and grate or slice thin pieces into salads. Celery root—which isn’t actually the root that grows under everyday celery, but rather a close relative—also adds a green note to mashed potatoes. Just replace half your spuds with the boiled root.
Aboveground, the plant sprouts tough, edible stalks with fragrant leaves, which spend the warm months siphoning sunshine down into the knobby root. Joan E McIntyre, an owner of Rent’s Due Ranch in Stanwood, about 50 miles north of Seattle, starts pulling her smallest organic celeriac late in the summer, but prefers to let it grow until just before the ground freezes. Since it tastes about the same at any size, McIntyre recommends choosing the biggest roots you can find—squeeze them to make sure they feel solid and firm all the way through—so that you only have to cut off the skin once for multiple meals. McIntyre says you can keep celeriac in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to four weeks after purchase, but she stores them well into January or February in her root cellar. Once cut, celery roots should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, then tucked in a plastic bag and refrigerated; they should then be used within a week or 10 days.