It has all the physical charm of a warthog,all bumps and sinewy tendrils, blotchy and pallid, and most often treated with suspicion by dubious customers. But we nodded vehemently in the affirmative when a fellow market goer stood next to us, holding up a large bulb of celeriac and asked, "you eat this?" Yes. Dear God, yes.
Physicality aside, celeriac still is one of the most attractive root vegetables of the season. You'll be won over by its fragrance first" a sweet herbal pepperiness that hints at its closely named relative, celery. Inhale deeply over the piles currently at Weiser Family Farms or Underwood Family Farms. And while the prep can be a little daunting (that thick, knob-tumored skin needs to be peeled away), it is as flavorful as it is ugly. Once peeled, the flesh is ivory colored with delicate, tan swirls where roots and bumps took shape. From there, your path to tastiness is varied and uncomplicated--celeriac can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, fried, braised, baked, or even grilled and needs little, if any, extra help to make it the most beautiful thing on your plate.
One of the really handy aspects of celeriac is its great celery-like flavor, minus the green and the string, which makes it perfect for raw applications, adding a water chestnut-like crunch and zingy aroma. And yes, the root ball is what celeriac is known for, but the thin, scraggly fronds up top are useful, too. They're hollow for one, forming a natural straw that imparts its own mild flavoring to the beverage of your choice (though we recommend a Sunday brunch Bloody Mary). Cooked it can hold whatever form you cut it into or be subdued into a velvety puree.
Its thick skin is another asset -- it gives the root its long shelf life, though we still recommend refrigeration if you plan to keep it around for a while, especially if you peel it. We usually say to select for vegetables and fruits without nicks or cuts, but that's pretty useless in this case. Instead, feel for firmness and weight. Celeriac should seem dense and compact, and the greenery up top should be fresh and bright green. And as previously mentioned, take a good smell. You should get a nose full earthy loam and green, spiciness.
Celeriac is harvested from here through early spring next year. Still, if you haven't become one of the many celeriac converts in recent years, don't wait. Enjoying it now means enjoying more of it as the season progresses and (hopefully) starts to cool down.