This is my first year growing celery, and I’ve been a little unsure as to how it would turn out. After doing a bit of digging around to see what info I could find about growing and harvesting celery, I’ve harvested my first 2. I’m happy to report that all in all they’ve turned out quite well – it’s a little stringy (more on that below) but brilliantly crunchy with great flavour. It looks nothing like shop-bought celery – it is greener and the stems are narrower. I don’t know how they grow it commercially, but evidently in a very different way!
So, let me talk a little about the stringiness. Mine are surprisingly stringy, to the point that I wondered if it was something to do with the variety, but it’s not. As with so many things in the veg patch, the stringiness largely comes down to lack of water. It turns out that celery is plant that naturally grows in marshy, boggy habitats where it sucks up plenty of water all day long. As such, it needs quite a lot of watering when grown in the garden. Guess what? I didn’t water much, and it’s been a pretty dry year. Still, the leaves have always looked nice and healthy, and it has survived, so in my eyes that is successful for a first attempt.
Another contributing factor to the stringiness is late harvesting. This is an interesting one because I was expecting to harvest celery in September, but I read somewhere that it’s better to harvest before the plants start producing sideshoots, which you can see pictured below. They are basically separate plants forming and when you look closely at your celery plants you can see it quite clearly.
So that’s a bit about the stringiness. By the way – if yours are stringy too, an easy way to get rid of the stringy bit is to use a potato peeler to peel the celery stalks.
Now, the greenness. I didn’t realise that there are 2 different kinds of celery out there – the kind that needs to be ‘blanched’ and the kind that ‘self-blanches’. In short, the former needs to be protected from the sun in order to make the stalks nice and pale (like shop bought ones!) and the latter doesn’t. The Rocket Gardens variety, Green Utah, is a self-blanching variety, thus the greener stalks. Good to know.
My final lesson on celery is to do with harvesting and storing – it is best to trim off the roots, sideshoots (as pictured above) and also to trim off a lot of foliage so that the water stays in the stalks and keeps them fresher for longer. Pop the trimmed celery in the fridge and it should keep for several days.
So that’s it for celery growing and harvesting. I’ll definitely be trying it again next year, but will water more frequently I think!