Grown for its thick, crunchy stalks, Celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce) is a cool-weather biennial vegetable that is delicious and versatile. Rising to 30 in. tall (75 cm), it has long, firm, pale green fibrous stalks that taper into a bouquet of leaves at the top. Celery has a mild, earthy, slightly peppery taste. Raw Celery can be served by itself or with spreads or dips as an appetizer and in salads. Celery can also be steamed, baked, or used as a flavoring in various stocks, casseroles, and soups. Celery seeds can be ground and mixed with salt to produce celery salt. Celery salt is used as a seasoning and in cocktails (a flavorful ingredient of Bloody Mary cocktails).
- Celery is a marshland plant in the family Apiaceae, which includes carrots and parsley.
- Celery is native to the Mediterranean region and the Middle East and has been cultivated as a vegetable since antiquity or for medicinal purposes.
- Celery leaves are frequently used in cooking to add a mild spicy flavor to foods, similar to, but milder than, black pepper.
- Celery requires a bit more attention than the average vegetable. It can be challenging to grow properly as it requires regular fertilization, consistent watering, and it dislikes heat and humidity.
Types of Celery
Stalk Celery or Pascal Celery
- Primarily grown for its thick stalk.
- This is the most common and popular type of Celery in the United States.
- Thrives in cool climatic conditions and prefers temperatures below 75°F. (24°C.) with night temperatures between 50- 60°F (10-15°C).
- Takes about 2-3 months for the stalks to mature.
- Varieties include Golden Boy (mild, short stalks), Tall Utah (crunchy, long stalks), Conquistador (crispy, slightly sweet), and Monterey (anti-bolting, heat-resistant, disease-resistant)
Leaf Celery (Cutting Celery or Chinese Celery)
- Apium graveolens var. secalinum
- Primarily grown for its flavorful stalks and leaves.
- Leaf Celery has pencil-like stems that are thinner than those of Western Celery.
- Cultivated in East Asian countries.
- Leaf Celery can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5a through 8b.
- Takes about 85 days from sowing to the first harvest.
- Unlike other types of Celery, Leaf Celery cannot be eaten raw.
- Varieties include Par Cel (adapt to cold and warm weather), Safir (peppery, crisp leaves), and Flora 55 (anti-bolting)
Celeriac (Celery Root, Knob Celery)
- Apium graveolens var. rapaceum
- Primarily grown for its crisp, celery-flavored root.
- Celeriac is similar to a root vegetable, except it comes with edible bulbous hypocotyl.
- Widely cultivated In the Mediterranean Basin and Northern Europe.
- Thrives in cool climatic conditions and prefers temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C).
- Celeriac requires 90 to 120 days to reach harvest.
- Edible raw or cooked, Celeriac may be roasted, stewed, blanched, or even mashed.
- Sliced Celeriac is used in soups, salads, and casseroles, lending them a unique flavor.
- The delicate and vibrant leaves are delicious and used as a garnish in contemporary fine dining.
- Varieties include Brilliant (Large, flavorful), Giant Prague (earthy), Tellus (nutty, sweet), President (tender, mild), and Diamante (rich, nutty).
Celery Health Benefits
- While Celery makes a flavorful addition to salads and various dishes, it can also provide some health benefits.
- Celery is a low-calorie vegetable (almost 95% water) rich in fiber. It is an excellent option for losing weight or maintaining healthy digestion.
- Celery is rich in vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate) and has high levels of antioxidants such as flavonoids, lunularin, and bergapten. They help to prevent the oxidative stress that contributes to cancer.
- Celery also contains minerals such as potassium and calcium, which are important for heart health.
- Celery is a good source of phthalides, a compound thought to promote healthy blood flow and lower blood pressure.
- Research suggests that a celery seed extract (L-3-n-butylphthalide) improves cognition and memory and could play a valuable role in treating Alzheimer’s.
- Celery can replace salt in many dishes and reduce the amount needed in others. Those on a salt-free diet can flavor their food deliciously by using Celery.
- Celery is high in oxalates and may not be suitable for those with kidney stones or kidney-related issues.
- Celery is among a small group of foods that may provoke allergic reactions.
- Celery grows up to 24-30 in. tall (60-75 cm) and 12-18 in. wide (30-45 cm), depending on the variety.
- Celery performs best in full sun or light shade in fertile, consistently moist, but well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8.
- Soil should be moisture-retentive and never dry out.
- Celery is a heavy feeder. Prevent problems by adding plenty of aged manure and/or compost into the soil before sowing (to a depth of 12-15 in. or 30-37 cm) or work in some a high potassium general fertilizer (5-10-10 fertilizer).
- Spring crop: start seeds indoors 10 to 12 weeks before your last spring frost date.
- Fall crop: start seeds in time to transplant seedlings 10 to 12 weeks before the first fall frost date.
- Celery is ready to harvest 90 days from planting or 120 days after the seed was first started.
- Seeds prefer temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C). Soak the seeds overnight to increase the prospect of germination. It can take 2-3 weeks for seedlings to appear.
- Plant seedlings 8-10 in. apart (20-25 cm).
- Celery does best in cool conditions with temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). It does not tolerate high temperatures.
- Celery tends to bolt (flower prematurely) if exposed to temperatures below 55°F (13°C) for more than 10 days.
- Make sure Celery plants are properly hardened off (acclimatized to outdoor conditions) before planting them out.
- Celery requires steady watering and a fertilizer boost once every two weeks to grow large healthy plants.
- Celery stalks become tough, bitter, and stringy if the plant lacks water or nutrients, if temperatures are too high, or if they are not harvested promptly.
- Mulch when plants are 6 in. tall (15 cm) to retain moisture and keep the roots cool while discouraging weed growth.
- Once they are established, a light dressing of high nitrogen fertilizer improves crops.
- Celery can be earthed up (mounding soil around the stems) so the stems become blanched. Start doing this once stems are 12 in. tall (30 cm).
- Draw up the soil 3 in. (7 cm) at a time until the top is exposed.
- Harvest before the outdoor temperature reaches 65°F (18°C). If you wait until the weather becomes too hot, the Celery will be dry and bitter.
- Make sure the lower stalks are at least 6 in (15 cm) long to be edible. The tallest stalks should be around 18 in (45 cm).
- To harvest, cut plants at the base with a sharp knife.
- Celery can be harvested a stalk at a time during the growing season, or the whole plant can be cut at the root once it reaches its final size.
- Blanching celery stalks will encourage a milder flavor. To eliminate light, build a frame over the bed in the fall and cover it with paper that blocks light.
- Propagate by seed.
- Pests: Celery may be affected by celery leaf-mining fly, slugs, and snails.
- Diseases: Celery may be affected by t bolting, celery leaf spot, celery heart rot, and split stalks.
Celery Companion Planting
- Excellent companion plants for Celery are arugula, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chili pepper, chives, cosmos, cucumber, daisies, garlic, kohlrabi, leek, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach, tomato, nasturtium, snapdragons, and tansy.
- Celery improves cabbage’s health and growth and the broccoli’s flavor when planted near it.
- Beans enrich the soil with nitrogen, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished.
- Peas fix nitrogen in the soil.
- If Celery and bush beans are grown together, they will strengthen each other.
- Leeks improve the growth of celery plants.
- Garlic keeps some pests away, such as aphids, Japanese beetles, mites, cabbage looper, ants, cabbage maggots, fruit borers, red spider mites, and slugs.
- Celery repels the white cabbage butterfly. Grow your Celery plants near your cauliflower.
- Bad companion plants for Celery are corn, parsley, carrots, lettuce, parsnips, dill, and aster flowers.
- Lettuce encourages visits from slugs and snails.
- Aster flowers can transmit the aster yellows disease.
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.