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Celery is a refreshing, crunchy treat from the garden that clears the palate with a pleasing bitterness. It's used extensively in salads and soups and is also great when juiced. Celeriac, a variety of celery that is grown for its root and well known in Europe, can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, baked, boiled, pureed or stir-fried. It adds wonderful flavor when cooked and mashed with potatoes. Celeriac may be stored in a cool, dry area of your home for several weeks.
Nutrients: vitamins A, C, E, K (high), B6, folate, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, and manganese.
Celery requires full sun and prefers moist, well-drained soil with adequate nitrogen. Prior to planting, work in 1 inch of compost. During the growing season, side dress plants with an organic nitrogen fertilizer such as manure, fish emulsion, blood meal, etc.
Start celery seeds indoors 10-12 weeks before the last frost date. Celery seeds require light to germinate. Sow seeds on top of the soil and press lightly to settle. Sow extra seeds to account for the fact that germination is typically low for celery (50%). Seeds will sprout in 10-20 days. Thin seedlings so that mature plants are 8-14" apart. Begin to harden off celery plants once they have at least five leaves. Transplant outdoors when average night time temperatures are on average 55˚F or higher. Temperatures below this will cause celery seedlings to bolt.
When plants are 8-10 weeks old, they can be blanched to obtain mild, light-colored celery. Blanching prevents light from reaching plant parts, thus preventing photosynthesis from occurring. To blanch celery, gather and secure the leaves around the stalks for 1-2 weeks.
In the deep south where summers are hot and winters are mild, celery can be planted in late summer and harvested 90 days later.
Celery stalks will be ready for harvest approximately 85 days after planting. Cut stalks 1-2" from base of the plant. New stalks will likely appear making multiple harvests possible.
Celery is a biennial, meaning it flowers, sets seed and dies during its second year of growth. After harvesting stalks, allow plants to overwinter in your garden. Celery is somewhat frost hardy, but will most likely need covering to successfully overwinter. Plants will flower the following spring. Flower umbels mature at different times, so collect seeds as they dry on the plant. Store seeds in a cool, dry place. Seeds will remain viable for 4-5 years.