Celery is a crunchy, green vegetable that is elongated in shape. It is part of the carrot family withscientific family nameApiaceae. The crop is commonly used as a low calorie snack and is well known for nutritional and medical benefits.Celery is rich in vitamin A, C, K,contains folate, potassiumminerals, water and fiber. Reduction of blood pressure, reduction of inflammation, and reduced risk of cancer are just a few of the numerous benefits of this super food crop.

The numerous benefits of this crop are reasons enough for people to get down to planting it within homesteads. Celery can be planted for either commercial or subsistence purposes. Unfortunately, commercially grown celery isusually prone to disease attacks forcing farmers to usually laden the crops with pesticides which eventually makealteration in their taste. Garden grown celery is more naturally tasting.Celery can be grown from either seed or scrap.

How to plant from scraps

A celery scrap is afragmentthat is cut off from the base of the stalk (about 2 inches from the root end). This piece is then planted and grown in water and then soil. Scraps are planted in soil so as to access nutrients in the soil.

Planting in water

  • Cut your celery 2 inches from the base.
  • Submerge the base in a shallow water full container.
  • Place the container in an area that is accessible to light, but not direct to the sun.
  • Give it a day or twoto sprout.
  • Be sure to change the water every two to three days in order to avoid drying out.
  • Small leaves should start emerging from the center in just a few days and the stalks should follow by the first week.

Planting in soil

Celery is known to be cool weather crop. The seedling can either be planted in a pot or any container filled with soil or planted directly in the soil in a garden. In case you would like to skip the planting in water phase, then you can place thebase directly on top of a container filled with moist soil then proceed from there.

  • The seedling should now look like its outer stalks are turning brown during the first week. Transplant the seedling to the container or directly to the soil.
  • When planting in a container, add a slow release fertilizer at the base of the container to keep the soil fertile.
  • When planting in a garden, add some compost manure to the soil so as to get better produce.
  • Space the sprouts 30cm apart between rows and 35cm inter-row spacing.
  • Ensure you properly water the seedling because celery requires moist soil conditions to perform well.
  • Ensure you weed regularly, but be careful because celery roots are shallow and can be easily disrupted and you don’t want to do that.
  • Instead of using pesticides to protect your produce, use garden fabric(row covers) during the first 4 and 6weeks. This can control pest like slugs, snails, flea beetles and earwigs.
  • Celery can take 120 to 140 days to mature under the optimum conditions.
  • Growing stalks can be tied together in order to avoid sprawling.
  • Celery is biennial thus canproduce over a period of 2 years.

Harvesting and storage

Celery can be harvested as soon as the stalks are 3 inches long. It is recommended that the stalks are harvested when they are 8 inches tall and are cut from the outside in. The darker the stalks, the tougher they become and the higher their nutrient quantity. This also gives room for regeneration of new stalks.

Celery should be stored in a fridge in order to retain its freshness. Before storage however, be sure to wrap your harvest using aluminium foil to prevent lose of freshness. The foil allows for the passage of air. Polythene papers are not recommended because they trap ethylene which leads to its vegetative demise.

Celery can be stored for weeks in the fridge as it happens to have such a long shelf life when stored well. The stalks can also be cut and stored in freezer bags so as to last for longer periods. Even so, keep in mind that it is perishable and should not be stored for too long.

Can the growing of celery scraps be done commercially?

Oh yes, it can. Matter of fact it is commonly done this way. Growing of celery from seeds however, can be difficult becausethe seeds are very small, hard and take time to germinate. The result is; sprouting at different times leading to lack of uniformity.The seedlings are usually transplanted from nurseries.

Even so, planting of celery seeds has been done commercially by large-scale farmers who are equipped with the right facilities. This is done in California among other leading producers of the crop.

Benefits of Celery

Celery is considered to be a miracle food due to its many benefits.

  • Dietary fiber. Celery, like most fruits and vegetables, are heavily laden with fiber which is very important for digestion.
  • Celery has been found to stimulate the growth and regeneration of nerve cells. A 2009 research showed that apigenin found in celery caused regeneration of these cells in mice.
  • According to a study published inCurrent Cancer Drug Targets, the luteolin found in celery makes cancer cells more susceptible to attack by chemicals used in therapy. Thus this crop is believed to have cancer prevention properties.
  • Further Studies have shown that celery seed extracts have properties that help lower blood pressure. The research published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods showed that the extracts had this effect on rats and could also have similar effects on humans.
  • Celery has anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of apigenin. This molecule also aids in restoring immune balance.

Top producers and consumers of Celery

Celery is usually consumed as a raw vegetablein salad dishes, as juice and can also be chopped into small pieces and added to stew-like dishes.

There are 3 types of celery;

  • Celeriac celery-This type has a bulbous root and can be used raw in salads or roasted. Mostly grown in Europe.
  • Leaf celery- This type has thinner stalks which are used in salads while leaves are used as seasoning. Mostly grown in China.
  • Stalks/Pascal celery –This is the most common type with thick stalks that can be eaten raw, in stews or salads.

Although it is produced in a number of countries, USA remains the leading producer of celery followed by Mexico. Celery is consumed by people in most continents but African countries are not among common consumers of the crop.

Challenges associated with growing celery

  • Germination of celery seeds is slow (about 4weeks). In this case the use of sprouts is recommended. Seeds can also be grown indoors weeks before the seedlings are set to appear.
  • Celery requires cool conditions and lots of water in order to performwell. Growing iton large scale in areas that are hot and dry is challenging as these crops are not adaptable to such conditions. Compost and mulch can be added in order to reduce water loss.
  • Celery is susceptible to many pests and diseases which pose challenges even in areas that have the right climate and soil conditions.
  • Production of celery is costly. It is labour intensive especially during harvesting and post harvest handling. Extra costs are also incurred during pest and diseases control. These costs are eventually transferred to the consumers making the crop a little bit expensive.

Emerging Technologies

Celery can be grown hydroponically in a nutrient filled solution without the use of soil.This can be done in either large or small scale. Plantingof celery using hydroponics technology often leads to better produce because of reduced risk of pest attacks and diseases,evades weeds, ensures higher nutrient uptake as well as avoiding soil toxins.

One can set uptheir own system with the use of a hydroponic base andmesh netting. Choose the base with the number of crops you are planting in mind.If your base is reliant on electricity, then it should be close to an outletso as to circulate water through it. After setting the base up at a place where there is access to sunlight, place the mesh over it.You can then either place fresh scraps or transplant sprouting onesto the system to get started.Be sure to maintain the nutrient solutionat pH level of 6.0 to 6.5.Lay perlite over the mesh netting to provide the crops with basic nutrients they need to grow.Always make sure there is constant water supply as this is the means by which nutrients are passed to the crops. This method of production certainly guarantees better produce than planting in soil.

So, next time you eat your celery; do not throw out the base. Consider starting your own plantation to save yourself trips to the supermarket in search of store-bought celery. You could easily have a year’s supply at no cost at all!There is something about growing your own produce that is just so satisfying!

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