Celeriac

Apium graveolens var. rapaceum

Herbs gallery - Celeriac

Celeriac, also known as knob celery, is a vegetable having a root akin to that of turnip. A good number of people are not familiar with this vegetable and it is possible that most have not even heard its name. Celeriac, scientific name Apium graveolens var. rapaceum, is grown in the same manner as celery. The seeds of this vegetable are sown directly outdoors during spring and the vegetable is harvested after its roots have grown to the desired size. People desiring to grow celeriac in their gardens may obtain the seeds of this vegetable from any garden center.

Precisely speaking celeriac is a particular type of celery that is especially cultivated for its big, robust and somewhat unattractive roots. This root vegetable is commonly known by several names, such as turnip rooted celery, celery, or simply celery root. This root vegetable can be used in several ways, both raw and after cooking. Celeriac has always been loved in European cuisine. However, it may generally be difficult to find celeriac outside Europe. However, some grocers in other places may still make it available for you. In addition, you can also cultivate this vegetable in your garden, provided celery grows in your area.

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Celeriac may be grown in the form of a biennial or perennial vegetable. Its growth habit as well as appearance are similar to that of the celery. In order to flourish, celeriac requires full sunlight and a soil containing sufficient moisture. Celeriac roots have a unique feature - its roots grow like the turnip. Similar to turnips, celeriac roots are large, have a light brownish color, and are globular, instead of growing just below the soil surface. The leaves of celeriac are akin to that of celery - long and having depressed petioles.

The root of celeriac has a rough, and contorted external surface that is covered with numerous minute rootlets. Once the skin of the root is peeled, you will find a white-hued, smooth flesh whose flavour is akin to celery. On an average, a mature celeriac root measures roughly 3 inches to 4 inches across and weighs approximately 1 pound to 2 pounds.

Celeriac has a long history and people have cultivated it for several thousand years as a food plant. Available documents suggest that people in the Mediterranean region had begun breeding a type of celeriac in their gardens several hundred years back. During the Middle Ages, cultivation of celeriac extended from the Mediterranean region and was finally introduced in the cuisine of North Europe. In French cuisine, celeriac is used widely in preparing various different types of dishes. The French use celeriac in salads, soups as well as other preparations in the form of a garnish or main ingredient.

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Celeriac roots take a long time to develop into desirable sizes and often it may take as long as 200 days for the celeriac roots to mature completely. Once the plant has matured, the aerial parts of celeriac look similar to celery, having a wide range of stalks that are set more or less in the middle point of the bulbous root. After harvesting, the knobby root having numerous rootlets comes to the view. The celeriac root has a somewhat spicy taste which is reminiscent of celery and parsley. This is not surprising considering the fact that all these plants are closely related.

The white, crunchy flesh of the vegetable comes to the view after the light brownish skin of celeriac root is removed. Many cooks prefer using celeriac raw. Many people love eating the shredded root in salads. As the celeriac roots have a propensity of become discoloured owing to oxidation, several cooks soak the cut roots in acidulated water (a dilute acid solution) or simply marinate the sliced roots in lemon juice before using them either raw or in cooking. Apart from consuming celeriac raw, you may also cook it in the same manner as you cook other different root vegetables.

While choosing fresh celeriac in any store, it is advisable that you try to find roots that are very smooth as well as firm. In addition, ensure that the roots you choose are without any soft spots; as such soft spots are indications that the vegetable has started decaying. Once you bring the vegetable home, you can store it in a refrigerator and they will remain in good conditions for about a week to 10 days. It has been often found that the roots remain viable for even longer periods provided they are stored in favourable conditions. The ideal place for storing celeriac is a root cellar, where the conditions are cool and dry, helping the roots to remain usable for about four months.

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Celeriac is mainly cultivated in all over the Mediterranean region and the northern areas of Europe. Currently, this root vegetable is also grown in Siberia, North Africa and the south-eastern regions of Asia. Very small amount of celeriac is also grown in North America, where the cultivar called "Diamant" is grown. As this vegetable is native to the Mediterranean region, it has been a favourite in European cuisines for long.

Health benefits

Apart from its use as a vegetable, celeriac also offers many health benefits. For instance, this vegetable is said to be a highly useful diuretic. Celeriac contains high levels of sodium, which aids in removing surplus water and acids from the body. As a result, consumption of this vegetable helps to reduce the stiffness of the skeletal muscles and relaxes the system.

Celeriac also contains adequate dietary fiber and, hence, consuming it helps to improve digestion. The juice of celeriac is said to be a wonderful appetizer. Dietary fiber contained by celeriac also aids in normalizing bowel movements and, thereby, prevents problems related to constipation.

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Apart from sodium and dietary fiber, celeriac also encloses sufficient amount of vitamin C and, hence, it serves as an excellent antioxidant. The dietary fiber prevents the toxins or free radicals from using up the oxygen in the cells. In other words, it prevents the cells from being oxidized. The elevated amount of dietary fiber in celeriac also helps to bring down elevated levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Celeriac also contains vitamin C, which facilitates the body to carry out several functions, such as blood circulation through the vessels and functioning of the brain. The juice of this vegetable is said to be useful for people enduring high acidity, which is often responsible for calcification as well as the degeneration of our bones and joints.

Consumption of celeriac is also beneficial for people enduring insomnia (sleeplessness) and problems related to the nervous system. Celeriac juice helps to revitalize the brain, improve memory and also put off light-headedness.

It has been found that this vegetable also contains good amounts of folate, vitamin B6, vitamin K and essential minerals like magnesium, sodium and manganese. At the same time, the calorie content of celeriac is very low. About 100 grams of this root vegetable supplies us with only 42 calories - a little more than that supplied by the vegetable's leaf-tops. The smooth flesh of this vegetable also offers us a number of other nutrients.

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Celeriac belongs to the Apiaceae family, which also includes vegetables like carrot. Therefore, similar to carrots, this vegetable also encloses numerous poly-acetylene anti-oxidants like panaxydiol, falcarindiol, falcarinol and methyl-falcarindiol.

Findings of many scientific studies have shown that these compounds present in celeriac possess cancer combating properties and also protect us from some forms of cancer, including lympho-blastic leukemia and colon cancer. As mentioned earlier, this vegetable is an excellent natural resource of vitamin K. Consuming 100 grams of this vegetable provides us with roughly 34 percent of our recommended daily intake of this vitamin. Vitamin K helps to augment bone mass by encouraging osteotrophic activities inside the bones. The studies also hint that vitamin K has also proven to be beneficial for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, as it works to restrict neuronal damage in our brain.

The celeriac root is also an excellent natural resource of a number of essential minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and copper. Phosphorus is essential for metabolic activities in the cells, to serve as a buffer system as well as the development and perseverance of our bones and teeth. Similarly, copper aids in restoring the immunity, putting off anemia and is also necessary for bone metabolism.

In addition, celeriac also encloses a number of vital B-complex vitamins like niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.

Buying tips

When you are buying fresh celeriac from any store, you should go for the roots that are large, bulbous and have developed to average length of about 3.5 inches. Also ensure that the pale brownish roots are surrounded by coarse green-hued stalks. When you are purchasing a celeriac only opt for the roots that are firm and their size can vary from small to medium. It is always advisable that you select smaller roots, as they taste better and are more flavourful. While people do not consume the stalks or leaves of celeriac, ensure that the roots you buy have green leaves, which are not drooping. After purchasing your preferred celeriac, you can store them in a refrigerator. However, ensure that you remove the leaves and stalks of the roots before storing them in a refrigerator. This will help them to remain viable up to one week.

Side effects and cautions

Celeriac offers us several health benefits, but it needs to be used with some caution. This root vegetable encloses a number of furano-coumarin amalgams such as bergapten, psoralen, isopimpinellin and xanthotoxin, which may result in photo toxicity. In other words, these compounds may cause a burning sensation in the skin of some people, especially who are very sensitive. In addition, as in the case of celery, women should avoid taking celeriac in excessive amounts during pregnancy. Similarly, people taking anti-coagulant medications and diuretics should use this herb in moderation, because it also possesses the same properties.

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