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Barbara Pleasant: Cutting Celery

 
Barbara Pleasant

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My original cutting celery seeds came from Johnny's. Fedco and many other seed companies offer the ‘Afina’ variety.

 

When looking for any seeds, try the Seed and Plant Finder hosted by Mother Earth News.

Above, some of 2010's cutting celery plants grew as volunteers from the back of the compost pile.

More Pleasant reading on celery:

 

All About Growing Celery in Mother Earth News (Jan 2012)

 


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One of the best ways help your garden save you more money is to grow things you would otherwise buy, for example garden celery. If you don't grow your own, celery one veggie to always buy organically grown. In the most recent tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 95 percent of conventional celery samples contained pesticide residues. Nearly 85 percent contained residues of multiple pesticides.

Cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum)
Cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum)

Underutilized cutting celery has my vote for its snappy fresh celery flavor in a sturdy, slug-resistant package. Many people eat the leaves, too, but I like parsley better and always have plenty. When it comes to celery, give me some stalks!

Cutting Celery for Kitchen Gardens

 

After growing all types of celery in various gardens, I think the best choice for kitchen gardeners is cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum), a more primitive form of familiar supermarket celery. A great cut-and-come-again veggie, cutting celery plants that are harvested often constantly send up new stalks. Hollow, crisp, and packed with flavor, cutting celery is an essential veggie at our house.

 

If you can nurse year-old plants through winter (certainly doable in Zone 6), they will send up a huge flush of stems in early summer, followed by lots of flowers and seeds. 

 

The ground seeds make a great seasoning for dozens of dishes, and overwintered cutting celery is happy to produce zillions of seeds. 

overwintered cutting celery in spring
Overwintered cutting celery in spring

What About Regular Celery? 

 

"The long, tall supermarket version of celery is a carefully engineered creation, grown on special rich soils using tricky techniques. The garden version (photos at right) is looser, leafier, and darker green, but it's also more flavorful. Every gardener should try growing some type of celery; all are easy to start indoors and transplant in spring, while the soil is still cool. Be ready to provide water, because the one thing celery requires is plenty of moisture to satisfy its thirsty fibrous roots. On the plus side, celery and its close relatives (cutting celery and celeriac) can tolerate a few hours a day of shade."

 

From Starter Vegetable Gardens, page 153

Cutting Celery

Packed with flavor and fiber, it's best to thinly slice cutting celery crosswise or diagonally. A sharp knife makes quick work of slicing and dicing any type of garden celery.

garden celery seedlings
Tor grow garden celery of any kind, give seedlings a long head start indoors. I start seeds in February and thin them to three to a container.
garden celery seedlings
When my celery seedlings have three strong leaves, I gently tranplant them to individual containers. 
cutting celery flowers
Cutting celery that survives winter produces an abundance of flowers and seeds. Volunteer seedlings are often abundant the following year, eliminating the need to start new plants from seed.
garden celery
Garden celery

I also grow regular garden celery (Apium graveolens), which does well in rainy years. This year I’m trying Red Giant Reselected, an improved red-blushed celery variety developed for organic gardens.

garden celery with drip hose
Garden celery with drip hose
Regardless of subspecies, all types of garden celery (Apium graveolens) need constant moisture. Use a drip hose and mulch to keep the plants from going thirsty.
celeriac
celeriac

Celeriac, a slow-growing root vegetable, offers another way to enjoy celery. Seedlings set out in spring plump up in the fall. Meanwhile, the hollow stems can  be used as novel drinking straws.