• Celery, a biennial, is a cool-season vegetable that drops its seeds in fall and grows as an aromatic herb in spring. It has tiny yellow flowers that bloom, go to seed on alternating years, and grow leaves when the seeds germinate the following year. It was well known to the ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The parts of the plants that are eaten are the leaf stalks (celery), leaves (Chinese celery), root (celeriac) and the fruits (celery seeds). Celeriac (the root) is commonly blanched and it is a traditional vegetable eaten in central, eastern and northern Europe.
• Burdock plants are perennials that sport large leaves and have a long history of medicinal use in Europe and Asia. The young tender roots are most commonly used in Japan as a food crop. They are harvested before they become fibrous and difficult to prepare and eat. The fruits are burrs that will stick to your clothing. Leaves and fruits are not used for food. Its medicinal uses are for skin irritation and rheumatism and as a diuretic.
• Horseradish is a perennial herb with numerous large leaves growing from its thick taproot. It has small white flowers and small fruits that do not form viable seeds. It is grown from root cuttings. The edible part of this herb is its fleshy roots that have a hot, peppery taste and sharp smell from the mustard oil glycosides that they produce. It is most commonly used, sparingly, to flavor meat and fish dishes. Wash and peel the skin of the root and grate it into dressings to flavor meat, fish, potatoes and salads. It is a popular seasoning in the Alsace, Germany, Russia and Scandinavia.
The following preparation is commonly taken to plant seeds of radishes, lettuce, arugula, celery, burdock and other cool-season crops planted now. Use the same cultural practices for planting tubers such as potatoes, turnips and beets in fall:
1. Cultivate an inch of compost into the top two to three inches of soil.
2. Scatter the seeds lightly where you want them to grow.
3. Very lightly slide an upside-down lawn or leaf rake over the planting bed barely covering the seed.
4. Sprinkle with water. Continue to lightly sprinkle three to four times a week through dry periods.
5. Protect the roots of young plants in winter with a mulch of aged leaves or bark.
Joel M. Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md.