History of Celery
Celery originates from the Mediterranean basin. This plant was originally used for medicinal purposes and it wasn’t until the 1600s that it started becoming food in France and Italy. Stalks were originally hollow, not solid. However, Europeans found the flavor to be too strong and bitter. So they developed the blanching technique to reduce the intensity of the flavor, which led to the creation of different types of celery. They also discovered that it is best to grow celery in cooler temperatures.
In 1806 there were five types of celery in the United States, including celeriac and red stalked solid. This vegetable was really introduced in the United States in the 1850s by George Taylor who lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He cultivated the seeds in his farm and gave them out at parties. People became interested in celery and this town became known as the “celery capital”.
Most types of celery came from England but did not grow well in America as the climate was different. After the Civil War there was enormous pressure for farmers to develop types of celery that were better suited for the climate. Between 1875 and 1900 many types of celery were created, some which are still available today. A terrible blight in the 1930s decreased the production of celery in Michigan and now most of it is grown in California.
There are many types of celery which you can grow in your garden. Celery is divided into three categories: leaf or soup, Pascal or stem and Celeriac or root. There is also wild celery that grows underwater in ponds, but it is not what we eat. All types of celery belong to the same species, so it’s important to note that they will cross if grown in proximity. This vegetable has plenty of vitamins and minerals which will help improve your health. Celery reduces inflammation and improves the digestive system.
Types of Celery
Leaf celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum) has thinner stalks than the Pascal variety. It resembles Old World smallage, an ancestor of celery. Of all types of celery this one needs cooler weather, so it can be grown in USDA zones 5 through 8. This is the easiest variety to cultivate and it can overwinter.
Leaf celery as its name suggests is grown for its leaves and seeds. Most of the celery seeds we see as a spice come from this variety.
Types of Leaf Celery
Par Cel Celery
This Dutch variety of celery dates back to the 18th century and is still quite popular in the present. Its crunchy texture and delicious flavor make it perfect for culinary use. Par Cel celery looks very similar to parsley and can be used as its replacement. Leaves make a good garnish for soups. This is one of the easier types of celery to grow which can be harvested after 85 days when the stems reach a height of 20 inches.
Give your dishes a peppery taste and crunchy texture with this unique celery. Safir celery is quite slender and can grow between 12 and 14 inches tall. Keeping it in a warm area where it is protected from the cold will help it grow faster. Harvesting can be done in 85 to 120 days.
Flora 55 Celery
This fast growing leaf celery is preferred by home gardeners since it takes between 80 to 120 days to harvest. It is quite easy to grow because it has anti-bolting nutrients. Dark green leaves grow up to 12 inches, which can be added to juices, salads, soups or healthy recipes.
Unlike other types of celery, this one is the only one which is grown for its roots. Celeriac (Apium graveoliens var. rapaceum) takes between 100 to 120 to mature. It can be grown in USDA zones 8 and 9. Growing celeriac is similar to growing turnips. It requires good soil and plenty of water. The root will form in the ground and stick out of it as it enlarges. It is best to surround it with soil to blanch the roots and keep them from drying out. Otherwise, it may get tough and woody inside. Harvest at any size, although they will toughen as they age.
Some heirloom types of celery such as Giant Prague and Early Erfurt can get quite large, weighing between 3 and 4 pounds. Apple-Shaped Celery is a variety that is easy to grow and smaller than Early Erfurt which is similar but about the size of an orange. Tops of this variety can be used as soup celery, as well as its dried skin to make stocks.
Celeriac is consumed in Europe by countries such as Germany or the Netherlands more than in America. Celeriac can be eaten raw or cooked. Europeans cook it in a soup and slice it with vinegar, salt and pepper.
Types of Celeriac
• Giant Prague
Pascal celery is the most common of all the types of celery. This is the celery we purchase at the grocery store. It takes between 105 to 130 days for the stalks to mature. This type of celery prefers day temperatures less than 75 F (23 C) and night temperatures between 50 and 60 F (10-15 C). However it can be grown in USDA zones 2 through 10.
Types of Pascal Celery
Some types of celery are ideal for warmer climates, like this hybrid grows in 80 days. It is heat resistant and can withstand some drought. Those who live in cooler areas can harvest it in 115 days. It generates early stalks and continues growing throughout the season. Keep the planted area moist and add fertilizer constantly. Stalks are crisp and delicious, but they don’t self blanch so you will have to do this process.
This type of celery was developed in Spain and it is quite similar to the conquistador variety. Monterey is an early maturing celery which can be harvested in just 80 days. It is a strong grower that is resistant to bolting, making it ideal for hotter areas. Monterey celery produces dark green stalks that are 12 inches tall.
Tall Utah is a popular heirloom celery which was released into the market in 1953. It takes about 100 to 125 to be ready for harvest. Sting-less and crisp stalks can grow up to 12 inches making them ideal for eating. This variety is sweeter and has plenty of flavor.
Not many types of celery are red like the red giant which has reddish-purple stalks which turn into a pink shade when cooked. Leaves are dark green which can be used like Italian parsley. Using red giant celery will give color to your dishes. Its flavor is also more robust and stronger than the green types of celery. As its name would suggest, this variety of celery is larger than most, being able to grow up to 2 feet tall! Maturity takes just 85 days despite its height. Red celery varieties can tolerate colder climates.
This type of celery is commonly grown at home. It is a shorter celery which is ready to harvest when stalks reach a height of 20 to 23 inches tall. Most gardeners prefer blanching it, turning the stalks from gold to white. It has a mild taste and crunchy texture which makes it perfect for eating raw.
Golden Self Blanching Celery
There are several types of golden celery, including Golden Heart also known as Kalamazoo since it gained the town the name of “Celeryville.” However, golden self blanching is the best for small gardens, since it has a compact size and is not prone to hollow stems. This celery was introduced in 1886. Its stems change from pale green to yellow white without the need for blanching. Stems are stocky and dense which make for the perfect storing of celery. Plant it in low, damp ground, even places where it floods.
Once upon a time the Pascal Giant variety was regarded as the finest of all types of celery with large ribs. Commercial growers love this variety because of its size and flavor. It was developed in France from golden self blanching celery, so it blanches even better than its parent, turning white in a few days. As its name suggests, this plant is large, growing up to 2 feet tall with light green leaves coming from the massive 2 inch stems. It is not a stringy variety and has a nutty flavor.
It is important to keep it watered, otherwise the stems will become hollow or dry, which is common with all the larger varieties. Plant it as an early fall crop since it does not like the winter. It takes about 115 days to harvest.
White Plume Celery
This variety was introduced in 1884 after being created from the golden half dwarf. American gardeners love this variety because it is a great self blancher. Hotels and restaurants like it as well since it is very ornamental. Stems taste well and have a crisp similar to that of an apple. This dwarf celery reaches a height of 12 inches. Compact stems are white with yellow leaves which look like feathers, hence the name.
White plume celery does not store well, so it is hard to find past December. It used to be one of the most popular celery at Christmas markets in the nineteenth century. At the end of the 1890s, a pink variety called pink plume celery came into the market. Nowadays it is very rare to find this beautiful Victorian ornamental.
Nan Ling Cutting
This type of celery is also known as leaf celery or Chinese celery since it is primarily grown in East Asia. Stalks are quite thin and are light green in color. They can be cut in two to three months which is ideal for people who live in areas where summers are short. Leaves can be added to soups, salads and Asian dishes.