• Publishers' Note Fall 2008

    Publishers' Note Fall 2008

    It’s hard not to notice the growth of Vermont farmers’ markets. Seems you turn around and there’s another one starting up. Or how about winter farmers’ markets? They number 14 to date, up from just a handful a year ago. And then there are CSAs of every sort, in which people pay in advance for shares of vegetables, fruit, and meat. Some shares even include canned and baked goods.

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  • Sylvia’s Special Seeds

    Sylvia’s Special Seeds

    I’d heard rumors of what might be growing in Sylvia Davatz’s greenhouse. Wheat from an alpine village. Greens throughout the winter. A tomato that lasts until December. Even peanuts! I wondered: What might be going on at Sylvia’s? Plants like these aren’t normally grown in Vermont.

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  • A Gathering Storm

    A Gathering Storm

    In 1716, while serving as a French missionary near Montreal, Father Joseph Francis Lafitau made a discovery in the journal of a fellow priest serving in China. He read about a plant, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), that the Chinese cherished for its medicinal value, and he believed he could find this plant or a similar one in the temperate woodlands of southern Canada. He eventually did, and in doing so added a new chapter to the annals of natural resource exploitation that accompanied white settlement in North America.

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  • Growing Up in 4-H

    Growing Up in 4-H

    4-H is a national enrichment program for young people ages 8 to 18. Around the country, local clubs teach specific skills intended to give young people four types of experiences that, organizers believe, contribute to positive youth development: mastery, belonging, independence, and generosity. Developing these skills is what it means to grow up in 4-H.

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  • Set the Table with Celeriac

    Set the Table with Celeriac

    I’m in the second year of my love affair with celeriac and the romance is still aflame. My initial reaction upon “discovering” this vegetable was to think, “Where have you been all my life?” Since then I have introduced my new love to many gardening friends, insisting they take home a couple of six-packs of seedlings in the spring and just have a fling. This year I also donated quite a few plants to the Westminster West School Children’s Garden, which I coordinate, to see if the kids would take to celeriac the way they now respond to kohlrabi—another somewhat “odd” vegetable that we planted together, and that has become one of their favorite raw snacks.

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  • Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 2: Summer

    Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 2: Summer

    The season started out dry at High Ledge. In early June, we watered the upper field by dragging a hose down each row of lettuce and beans, delivering water from a tank filled from the pond. We were making rain, you could say, playing God. Then the real rain came. Then the rain kept coming. And after two weeks, we were feeling very mortal. We lost a whole bed of lettuce to rot, and then another. Everything in the greenhouse stalled and some plants started to mold.

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  • Rutland's Spud Man

    Rutland's Spud Man

    His story is an exception—not the story we usually associate with Vermont farmers around his age, farmers in their 60s and 70s. These farmers grew up during the Depression and World War II, often on their parents’ land, then farmed themselves—dairying, mostly—for 40 or 50 years. And their stories, as everyone in Vermont knows, have often ended at the auction block or in a real estate agent’s office—places where fields and cows must be sold because of brutal economic forces. Or their stories have ended when the farmers have become too tired, or too injured, to keep working.

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  • Three Square—Fall 2008

    Three Square—Fall 2008

    Growing up in Vermont I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura daylilies. I recently returned to live here full time. Since then, I’ve noticed that conversation often turns to food. What’s for dinner? This is the fourth and last installment of a series in which I’ve visited a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peered into their iceboxes, and shared their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.

    “I don’t care much about cooking,” Edith tells me. “I don’t put much stock in it."

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  • Safe Ground

    Safe Ground

    Smokey House Center is not your run-of-the-mill farm by any means. And Natasha was the first to teach me this in no uncertain terms. A fight makes it sound too violent. A confrontation sounds too technical. I’d call it a challenge. My run-in with Natasha was definitely the first big challenge I faced as a crew leader at Smokey House. She was the first kid to test me, the first to stand her ground. I’m pretty sure she didn’t like me at first, and when Natasha doesn’t like you, you better watch out.

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  • Springing Ahead

    Springing Ahead

    Spring Lake Ranch is a farm-based therapeutic community in Cuttingsville, 10 miles from Rutland. Its mission is to help people with mental health and substance abuse issues find value and focus in their lives, primarily through community living and working the land. The work program makes up the core of our daily activities, and is divided into Farm, Gardens, Woods, and Shop. Residents come to the ranch for an average stay of six months, although there are no prescribed limits.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Sweet Treasures

    Farmers' Kitchen—Sweet Treasures

    I’ve always had a certain fascination with root vegetables, grown secretly and mysteriously beneath the cool, dark ground. Root crops weather the changes of the growing season in private, developing steadily out of sight all summer. This makes the harvest of these subterranean crops somewhat like the unveiling of a new work of art: the earth is opened with shovels and forks, and hands reach in. The clinging dirt is swept away and the shape and color of the root is finally revealed after months of secret creation.

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  • Last Morsel—In the Garden

    Last Morsel—In the Garden

    Growing food in a garden gives us a close-up look at Life—like being at the New England Aquarium in Boston and pressing up against the glass to watch a giant turtle swim by. In the garden, though, we do more than just stand at the glass. Rather, we work with the web of life, cooperate with nature, collaborate with Mother Earth. Want to know how roots work? Grow food. Want to learn how to keep somebody healthy? Grow food. Want to care if it rains? Grow food.

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  • The Great Vermont Barn Census

    The Great Vermont Barn Census

    If you love barns, or history, or just love roaming around Vermont talking to people, you may enjoy participating in the Vermont Barn Census. Launched in August by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and other organizations, the Census invites volunteers to talk with barn owners about their old barns, then enter information about the architecture and past uses into an online database. The idea is to create a descriptive catalogue of Vermont’s estimated 5,000 barns before they succumb to old age, weather, or demolition. Volunteers can work individually, in pairs, or through organized groups, and plenty of information on barn architecture is provided; you don’t have to be an expert to participate.

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Set the Table with Celeriac

Celeriac

Written By

Tatiana Schreiber

Written on

September 01 , 2008

I’m in the second year of my love affair with celeriac and the romance is still aflame. My initial reaction upon “discovering” this vegetable was to think, “Where have you been all my life?” Since then I have introduced my new love to many gardening friends, insisting they take home a couple of six-packs of seedlings in the spring and just have a fling. This year I also donated quite a few plants to the Westminster West School Children’s Garden, which I coordinate, to see if the kids would take to celeriac the way they now respond to kohlrabi—another somewhat “odd” vegetable that we planted together, and that has become one of their favorite raw snacks.

Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapaceum), also known as celery root or turnip-rooted celery, is a close relative of celery, parsley, and parsley root, and its leaves look and taste much like celery. It offers a subtly sweet and nutty flavor—a cross between celery and parsley, with a hint of anise. Usually softball to grapefruit sized, it has lots of finger-like roots sticking out from its round core—somewhat like the roots of a parsnip that has encountered many Vermont rocks on its journey within the earth. It is beige or greenish-beige, rough, and pock-marked on the outside, and white, firm, and smooth on the inside.

Like kohlrabi, celeriac is delicious raw—crunchy and dense. But it’s equally good cooked, as an addition to fall and winter soups, mashed with potatoes, or roasted with other roots. According to French market gardener Joël Thiébault, writing in Vegetables by 40 Great French Chefs, the celery root was historically used medicinally and as a seasoning. It was first bred as a root vegetable in Germany in the 16th century. In France, it was not grown in significant amounts until 1815, where it is now well loved by French chefs. A classic dish is celeriac remoulade, in which the root is cut into matchstick-like pieces, marinated in lemon juice, and tossed with a mustardy mayonnaise.

Luckily, celeriac is beginning to be appreciated in this country and can often be found in food co-ops and some grocery stores. Or, you can try growing your own. I find it easier and more rewarding to grow than celery because of its relatively simple garden requirements, its mellow flavor and its multiple uses.

According to farmer Joël, who has been perfecting his methods for many years, it’s important to make sure that the large root grows very slowly, “as the tap root contains the plant’s reserves and the leaf system is its lungs.” It must be kept growing steadily, but not be overwatered, so that the ball of the root does not develop until late in the season. Joël aims for a root weighing 2.5 pounds, with a nice solid center. A root like this can be stored all winter (in moist sand) and still be delicious in March.

In order to provide the long growing season that celeriac needs, you should start the seeds indoors in late winter or early spring. I started mine on March 17 this year, but you could start them a couple weeks earlier, I’m sure. The seeds are tiny, so you’re likely to end up with much more celeriac than you know what to do with—hence the need to foist off your extras on friends. The seedlings can be transplanted into the garden in early summer, and you should keep them evenly moist from then on. You can begin to harvest smaller roots in early fall and larger ones as the season progresses, on into November. As with some other root vegetables, the flavor is enhanced by light frosts.

To use celeriac, cut off the bottom and top of the root. Although you can eat the gnarly skin, you’ll probably want to peel it away with a paring knife. (You won’t be able to eliminate all the creases and crevices in the skin, but there’s no need to.) Celeriac can be boiled, mashed, braised, sautéed, roasted, or even made into French fries. Dehydrated, it can serve as a celery-flavored seasoning. Many French recipes call for blending or creaming the cooked root for soups and soufflés, but I love the crunchiness of celeriac and would rather use it in chunks in soups or tomato sauce, or raw, grated, or chopped in salads. It’s a great addition to Waldorf salad (see recipe) and its crunchiness also suggests it would be excellent pickled. Some chefs decree that celeriac should be parboiled in acidified water for 5 to 10 minutes before using it in salads, but if you’re a raw kohlrabi fan, you’re likely to enjoy celeriac straight up.

However you eat it, celeriac is a vegetable worth getting to know. Once you do, I’m sure you’ll be enraptured, too.

About the Author

Tatiana Schreiber

Tatiana Schreiber

Tatiana Schreiber grows and sells heirloom and unusual varieties of eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes, as well as medicinal and culinary herbs, at her farmstead, Sowing Peace Farm, in Westminster West. She also teaches ecological agriculture and other topics at local colleges.

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Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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