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Barbara Pleasant: Cutting Celery

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 and virus-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 celery of all types 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. As a true biennial, overwintered cutting celery is happy to produce zillions of seeds. 

When growing cutting celery, give seedlings a long head start indoors. I start seeds in February and thin them to three to a container. When the seedlings have three strong leaves, I gently tranplant them to individual pots. 
Cutting celery that survives winter produces an abundance of flowers and seeds. The flowers are visited by scads of small pollinating insects, and flower production continues for weeks. Volunteer seedlings are often abundant the following year, eliminating the need to start new plants from seed.

cutting celery seedlings
These cutting celery seedlings came up behind a compost heap
overwintered cutting celery in spring
Overwintered cutting celery in spring
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.
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. 

Sources for Cutting Celery Seeds 


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

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