It may appear to be just an ugly, uninteresting, knobbly root but celeriac has inner beauty. The flesh - crispy when raw, silky smooth when cooked - has a delicate taste which suggests the flavours of celery and parsley with a slight nuttiness. Try it mashed with potatoes and garlic or in the excellent Celeriac Remoulade.
Celeriac is derived from wild celery, which has a small, edible root and has been used in Europe since ancient times (it is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey as selinon). It is unclear when celeriac was first cultivated but there are references to it dating back to the seventeenth century.
Today celeriac is uncommon outside of Europe or W. Asia, and is not widely used in Britain. It is popular in France (where it is used in the classic dish céleri rémoulade - matchsticks of celery in a flavoured mayonnaise) and Italy.
Apium graveolens var rapaceum is closely related to celery but features a much larger root.
Choose medium-sized celeriac that are firm and free from soft spots or damage. Allow for around ¼ of the weight to be discarded during preparation.
Refrigerate in a plastic bag (unsealed). Celeriac can keep for 2 or 3 weeks.
Trim leaves (if present) and root end. Scrub well and cut off the skin quite thickly to remove any brown bits and the root channels in the base. Drop cut pieces in water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
Grate or cut into thin sticks for serving raw (blanch briefly in boiling water for a slightly softer, smoother texture). Boil cubes until tender (15 - 20 minutes) before mashing with potatoes and garlic, or other root vegetables. Celeriac also works well in stews and roast celeriac is excellent with meat.
See a variety of fruit and vegetables battle with the evil Celeriac in the colourful cartoon strip Star Fruit Wars.