One of the most nutritious and useful crops we can grow is celery.
Were all acquainted with the regular stalk celery in grocery stores, but many of us pass up those gnarly clumps of celeriac, or root celery. We shouldnt. Theyre nutritious and taste good. A third type, also easily grown here, is cutting celery or smallage, and Ive never seen that in stores.
Celeriac, or root celery, is easy to grow. You can start all three celeries from seed now, so theyll be ready to plant out after all danger of frost is past. All three celeries are biennials, and if theyre in a protected location, may overwinter here and go to seed next spring. One Boise friend had cutting celery overwinter and re-seed her bed, and regular celery wintered over for me four or five years ago. The seed is used as a spice.
Cutting celery is easily grown in containers, and is quite useful for flavoring soups and stews. Friends Ive shared seedlings with later expressed surprise at how often they used that produce. Cutting celery stalks are very spindly, unlike the regular stalk celery. They grow in my yard in partly shaded containers, to about eight inches tall. We usually dry about a pint of leaves by seasons end.
There isnt much choice in stalk celery, most seed companies carrying Ventura, Giant Pascal, Utah tall, Tendercrisp or Yellow Self-Blanching. but several vendors are also carrying a red celery called Redventure. I grew a red celery years ago, just once. I wasnt sufficiently pleased to grow it again.
The yellow celery and Giant Pascal are self-blanching, the external stalks serving to protect inner stalks from direct sunlights greening. You may blanch other types of celery if you wish or use it green.
Bountiful Seeds has a variety of green celery called EA Special Strain, that I like. You can harvest a few outer stalks of any stalk celery or cut all off about an inch and a half above soil line and let the plant grow new tender stalks.
Work into your garden bed a large amount of compost and well-rotted manure (be sure its free of herbicide contamination) or other decayed organic matter, and a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-5 before planting. Celery is shallow-rooted, so doesnt stray far in search of nutrients. It needs a good supply of water, at least one and a half inches each week.
Side-dress with complete fertilizer six weeks after transplanting and with nitrogen alone four weeks later. Ive not followed this fertilizing technique, but will this summer. Some of my stalks could stand improvement.
The only insect damage Ive had has been slug damage, inside the clumps. I may surround transplants with copper foil this summer, to zap slugs. Foil pieces should be at least two inches wide, I think.
Celery is a significant source of fiber and vitamins A, C and K. It has zero calories according to some sources. Its fine for snacks, with or without peanut butter or cream cheese in its slot, or chopped in stews or soups. If you take your lunch to work, add a stalk of celery to your bag. Or add chopped celery to tacos instead of lettuce.
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