Celeriac: Take two

Celeriac. Have you heard of it? You probably have if you’re a CSA member, you might have if you shop at farmers’ markets, but it’s pretty rare to see it in the grocery store.  There are a few reasons that celeriac (or celery root) has ended up as more of a specialty crop than a standard, but likely its greatest obstacle to celebrity status is its own finickiness. Celeriac requires so much nurturing that even those with lots of TLC to give (like us) are sometimes left frustrated and confused.

The celeriac cultivation saga begins in late winter. We pre-soak celeriac seeds in warm water to soften the shell casing and then hand-sow them in March, two seeds in each cell to increase the odds of germination. We spend the next month and a half carefully monitoring the soil to make sure it is JUUUUST right: Not so dry to starve the seeds of water, but not wet enough to rot them.

We’ve gotten pretty good at baby-sitting fussy crops, but this year’s celeriac was not having any of it. About a month ago it was becoming apparent that our celeriac was not happy. Very few of our 3,600 plants had germinated. Shoot! In our springtime busyness (and not sure what we were doing wrong), we crossed our fingers a bit tighter, did our best to be optimistic, and continued to wait. Days later, no more celeriac. The next week? Still no celeriac. Two weeks later it was obvious the celeriac wasn’t playing ball, AND that we’d been left high and dry by our own optimism.

So now…do we cross yet more of our digits, resow the celeriac in May, and hope that the season cooperates down the road and affords us a late transplant? Or do we admit defeat?

You probably can guess the answer. Busy though we are and valuable though greenhouse space is this time of year, our love of celeriac and loyalty to CSA expectations reigns supreme. It’s back to the greenhouse with the celeriac seeds, a few new ideas in mind (but fingers AND toes crossed just in case) and a hope that we can create the conditions for robust germination this time around.

It’s probably safe to say that farmers are, overall, an optimistic bunch. Celeriac harvest will likely be delayed, but we are hopeful that it will proudly be featured in the last few weeks of the CSA. We will be sure to keep you posted as to its progress.

If you haven’t joined our CSA already, we hope you will consider signing up.  You’ll get to share in the ups and downs of the growing season with a group of optimistic farmers committed to providing as much delicious crop variety as we can manage.