"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Monday, October 12, 2009

Growing and Putting Up Celery and Celeriac

I love growing my own celery. In my opinion there is just no comparing it to the pale nutritionally defunct and often quite poisonous product found in the grocery store. Celery is one of those vegetables that is packed with pesticide residue, just looking at it on the store shelves makes me cringe. My celery will never be as large and crunchy as today's mono-cultured celery but I would be willing to bet, and I hate gambling, that it is by far superior from a nutritional standpoint. Many people might not realize it but home grown celery really is very healthy, packed full of vitamins and minerals. They say of non-organic produce that the good outweighs the bad. Me, I'm only interested in the good, so we grow our own...pristinely of course. Why compromise when it comes to your health?

We start our celery and celeriac indoors around the first of March as the seeds often take a long time to germinate, sometimes almost 3 weeks. A couple weeks after germination we introduce them to the much cooler greenhouse temperatures for about a month and then transplant the seedlings into the garden sometime in May depending upon the weather. They will handle light frosts once established but harsh cold can damage young seedlings. Celery and celeriac seem to do best in full sun, but prefer cooler conditions, and are heavy feeders that need a loose compost rich soil. Ours were much smaller this fall due to the unusual heat we experienced. It was a crazy hot summer, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes all did beyond fantastic while many of the root veggies were a bit on the wimpy side.


Both of these succulents require plenty of water, I will mulch ours with leaves and grass trimmings if I am planting them in a part of the garden that dries out quickly. Enough water makes for fatter more tender stalks and bigger roots in the case of celeriac, after all they are made up of mostly water. Celeriac also produces a tasty albeit smaller and stronger flavored stalk when compared to regular celery but it is still pretty good. If I had to grow just one of these two I would pick celeriac for its roots and stalks.


Nice size celeriac should be about 4-5" across, ours averaged about 3.5" ...not very big.

This year we grew the heirloom Red Giant and a hybrid celery as the heirloom tends to bolt more easily when subjected to extreme heat or cold for a number of days. The hybrid types seem to hold up better under these conditions but are of little use as far as seed saving goes. Our celeriac was Diamante, an open pollinated variety.

Running low on pots I stuffed around six celery plants into this garden cart for the winter.


For the most part we use these vegetables as a source of winter food and store both of them in the root cellar using them as additions to soups and salads. We carefully dig up and transplant our celery in October before the ground freezes or too harsh a frost sets in. I cut back about 15% of the stalks to compensate for any root damage and continue to make sure the soil does not dry out in storage. You can also cut all of the stalks off and force new growth in winter by bringing the plant into a warmer environment. The more light they receive the greener, and healthier, the stalks become.


Celeriac is treated a little differently as the tops are cut off and the root ball is stored in damp sand just like carrots and beets. Celeriac is a newer addition to our garden and we are still working on becoming familiar with it. Having first tried the roots I was surprised at the nice flavor, having a very subtle but unique celery flavor and a crisp crunch to them.


We left about 2/3 of both of these to overwinter in the garden. Before the ground freezes I will hill leaves and soil around the plants roots and hopefully enjoy early spring stalks before they bolt to seed. I also want seed off of the biennial Diamante celeriac...isn't that a great name for such an ugly root? Our root cellar is starting to look like a jungle with over thirty celery plants hiding down there. Does that make us a bit eccentric? I hope so.

What's in your celery - http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/food.jsp?food=CE

22 comments:

el said...

OOo! Celeriac! My fave way to eat it is to grate it raw for a salad, just marinating it in a vinaigrette for a bit before eating it. Second fave is to mash it with potatoes.

We have a TON of celery this year too as one plant went to seed last year and gave me literally thousands of babies. I will trade you Golden Self-Blanching for red, like to mix up the colors. The GSB does get nice and thick like regular celery too.

WeekendFarmer said...

Hi Mr. H - I came across some grapes around our property in the woods. They look like this..See link. Did you ever come across anything like this? I am wondering if they are edible. I did eat some and they taste like currants. They do have more than 1 seed. ( I read that should be a indicator for saftey from a poison angle). Any thoughts? I would like to eat them in larger quantity : ). Thanks!

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_XJFd_R-qRTk/RuS4qF1xExI/AAAAAAAAAc8/pQN4oUhHtd0/s400/sag+grapes.jpg

Stefaneener said...

Hmmmm. Some day I might have to grow celery. Since it's so easily available here organically and I only use it for soups and some forced snacks for the kids, it never seemed like enough to grow it. Your post is inspiring.

Chiot's Run said...

I do love some homegrown celery. I happen to have tons of it. I planted 12 plants thinking I'd get 10 small plants and I ended up with 12 HUGE celery plants. I'm quite happy because I had them planting in the back garden that doesn't get quite a full day of sun. I also love that the deer & groundhogs that frequenlty eat my crops back there didn't bother them.

I do now have to figure out what to do with all my extra celery. I'll be digging some up to keep in the basement for winter soups/stews. I'll probably cut one off and leave the roots in the ground to see what happens next year.

Thanks for the tips on storing celery!

Granola Girl said...

How large is your root cellar? We are slowly digging one out from under our house and trying to figure out just how much space we are going to need to keep us through the winter. Currently, it holds our cans, dry bulk food bins, pumpkins, and winter pears and apples. We haven't really started to store much produce. It isn't very big it seems, but we have a bit in it. I was curious about how much space is needed to hold you over for the colder months before you can start eating out of the garden again.

randi said...

again, talk about perfect timing..I potted my few celery plants today in a deep,wooden box. It's destination, the basement, which is as close as I come to having a root cellar with ideal temp and humidity. Just another new experiment. We've had a few frosts now so I'm hustling to get everything in it's place before the predicted snow, yes snow, on friday.

Michelle said...

It looks like you did really well for not having much experience with celery root. This was my first year trying it and I haven't really had any success, it has been really difficult to get it going. I've never tried stalk celery before, like Stefaneener I can find enough good organic celery to fill my needs. I did try Hollow Pipe of Malines leaf celery this year. I almost forgot about it, it's hiding behind my amaranth but seems to be doing ok. It's not as juicy as stalk celery and has a thinner stalk, but the stalks and leaves have a good flavor.

Mr. H. said...

El,

We are looking forward to trying celeriac both of the ways you mentioned. Can you believe that I have not even tried it this year, too many other foods going on.

Gold celery, boy I don't know. Isn't celery supposed to be a pale green color? Just kidding!:) I would love to trade gold for red, sounds like a plan.

Mr. H. said...

WeekendFarmer,

Those sure look like grapes to me. They look very much like some of the ones we are growing. Our purple grapes contain 3 to 5 seeds. It's possible that they are not fully ripe and that is why they taste a little off. Lucky you.

Mr. H. said...

Stefaneener,

Forced snacks, we have those going on as well.:)

Mr. H. said...

Susy,

I'm suprised the deer leave them alone...I thought deer ate everything:). It sounds like you have some pretty nice celery, 12 plants is a lot. I'm sure that you agree with me about them being much better fresh out of the garden.

Mr. H. said...

Granola Girl,

Our root cellar is in three different areas of our basement. One for peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos and such. The other is for root vegetables and cabbage, the third section is where we keep celery, belgium endive, and kholrabi. Maybe 400 square feet all together. That does not include a cool back room for canned goods, flour, sugar, rice, beans and yet another dry warm area for all of our squash and pumpkins. That's us though, and we are a bit food crazy.

I think that a section under your house would be a great place to store certain food items. That is how many root cellars were made long ago. How much space you will need all depends on what and how much you will be storing. Keeping in mind that not all food items can be stored under the same conditions I would say that a large percentage (enough to feed you through the winter) of ones food could be kept in an area that is roughly 100-200 square feet.

I highly recomend checking out "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubil. It is a great starting place for learning more about storing food items. Another interesting book is "Preserving the Fruits of the Earth" by Stanely Schular and Elizabeth Meriwether Schular. There is also some interesting information available at-

http://www.earth-house.com/Disaster_Readi/Sanctuaries/Root_Cellars
/root_cellars.html

Mr. H. said...

Randi,

We are suppose to get some snow tonight...I'm not ready!:) Your celery will do great in the basement as long as you keep the soil from drying out. Let me know how it works out for you.

We need to do something with our peach trees pretty soon as well. I am going to put a foot of straw around mine and cover it with soil...and then cross my fingers.

Mr. H. said...

Michelle,

I am going to have to try leaf celery, I just looked it up online and it sounds like something I would be interested in growing. Thanks for the idea.

Unfortunately, we have a hard time finding "good" organic produce in this area so if we want it we have to grow our own.

Soilman said...

Love celeriac. Yours looks terrific. I find that it needs LOTS of water, or the bulbs don't swell. Mine has been a disaster this year; very dry weather in the UK, unusually, and the celeriac didn't like it at all.

Mr. H. said...

Soilman,

Next year I am going to really focus on trying to get a little more size in my root veggies. We also had a pretty hot summer and it didn't help that I cut back on the watering a bit.

Roasted Garlicious said...

hey there Mr. H... this was my first year growing Celeriac and it surely doesn't look as good as yours... lack of water i do believe... thanks for the storing tips! i'm going to try digging my few up and tucking them in a safe place.. IF we get snow like last year, the mice will surely eat them like they ate almost all my overwintering veggies...

Mr. H. said...

Roasted Garlicious,

Those darn mice, we fight them and the voles quite a bit in the winter months. Lot's of water for the celeriac, and they store really well.

Frugilegus said...

Great tips, thanks. One day I will have a root cellar! (And celeriac to put in it)

Mr. H. said...

Frugilegus,

You will love both the root cellar and the celeriac. I promise that celeriac will do better than those strawberry spinach. At least they will grow nice stalks for you.

LynnS said...

Such a great post and wonderful comments, too. Never even tried to grow celery because of the volumes of water I thought they required. Might be time to re-consider and think more about some drip irrigation for my lazy-self. Your crops are fantastic, as always!

Mr. H. said...

Thanks Lynn,

A great water wise way to grow a few nice celery plants is to start them in a large pot or two. After they get going mulch the top with a good 4-6 inches of leaves or grass clippings and then cover that with an inch of soil.

Next, put your pot (it needs to have big drain holes) into a shallow 4-6" deep pan that is at least 3" wider than your pot. Fill it with water once a week or so and your celery will have the perfect environment. The water will wick up to the roots as needed without water logging the plant.

We grew about 5 pepper plants this way in our greenhouse, it got over 100° in there but I still only had to water them every 4th day.

I hate growing things in pots because they always dry out on me, this turned out to be an excellent solution.

In the garden, mulching with leaves, leaves are best, or grass clippings also works well. The trick is to cover the actual thick layer of mulch with soil, thus helping it to perform the task of keeping the water from evaporating.

I never mulch until the soil is warm though as it acts as an insulation and will keep the soil from warming in the spring and that delays plant growth.

Probably more than you wanted to know...sorry.:)

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