This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Apium graveolens, Linn., variety rapa-ceum, DC). Umbelliferae. Fig. 856. An offshoot of the celery species, producing an edible root-part instead of edible leaves.
Fig. 856. Celeriac trimmed for market (X 1/2); also an untrimmed root, on a smaller scale.
Celeriac is very little grown in this country, and to Americans is almost unknown, but it is much prized in Europe. Here it is cultivated chiefly where there is a foreign population. Fifteen or twenty varieties are mentioned in the seed catalogues, but there is very little difference in the various sorts, some seedsmen even making no distinction between varieties, but cataloguing the plant simply as celeriac.
In general, the culture is the same as for celery, except that no blanching is required, since it is the enlarged root that constitutes the edible part. Sow the seed during the spring in a well-prepared seed-bed, preferably in a more or less shaded location. A coldframe or a spent hotbed is a good place. The seed is slow to germinate, and must be kept well watered. When the plants are 2 or 3 inches tall, they ought to be transplanted; about 3 inches apart each way is a good distance to place them at this handling. Later, again transplant them to the open ground, in rows about 2 feet apart and 6 or 8 inches distant in the row. The soil should be a rich light loam well supplied with moisture. (The seed may be sown where the plants are to remain, and thinned to the required dis-tance, but stronger, more stocky plants are secured by transplanting as directed.) Plants thus treated will be ready for fall and winter use. If they are desired for earlier use, the seeds may be sown in a mild hotbed and transplanted to the open.
Plate XXV. Celery. - The cultivation under field conditions, at the hilling-up or banking stage.
Aside from frequent tillage, celeriac requires but little attention during growth. It is a frequent practice with growers to remove a little of the earth from about the plants after the root has become well enlarged, and to cut off the lateral roots. This tends to make the main root grow larger, smoother and more symmetrical in shape. For winter use, the plants may be protected with earth and straw to keep out frost, or packed in moist sand and placed in a cool cellar.
The principal use of celeriac is for the flavoring of soups and stews, but it is also served in several other ways. It may be boiled and eaten with a white sauce, like cauliflower; as a salad, either first being cooked as beets or turnips, or else cut up into small pieces and used raw; when boiled, sliced and served with oil and vinegar, it forms the dish known as "celery salad." An extract may be obtained from it which is said to have medicinal properties.
Just how long celeriac, or turnip-rooted celery, has been in cultivation is unknown. Its history as a garden vegetable can be traced definitely as far back as the middle of the seventeenth century, although writers for a century or more previous to this time made references which would seem to relate to this vegetable, but the identity is obscure. Its origin was probably the same as that of the common garden celery, of which it is doubtless a state wherein the root has become enlarged and edible. This form is supposed to be the one most remotely removed from the wild state.
H. P. Gould.