At the end of the 19th century, celery was considered a rare gourmet treat. Hostesses purchased beautiful crystal vase-like celery servers just to showcase this elegant vegetable. Today, we rely on celery as a crunchy, low-calorie treat and the basis for flavoring soups and stews. It’s readily available at the supermarket, but you’ll have fun growing it at home and will appreciate smaller celery heads, which are tenderer and mild flavored. It requires a long growing season (at least four months) and grows best in moderate temperatures. Because it takes a long time to mature, start seeds indoors 10-12 weeks before your area’s last frost date. Transplant seedlings to the garden after danger of frost has passed.
For extended harvest, start cutting individual stalks when they reach about 10 inches tall, removing them at the base of the plant with a sharp knife. You can also harvest the entire plant by cutting off the above-ground portion of the plant. Blanching gives the stalks milder flavor. Wrap the nearly mature stems with a light-blocking cylinder such as a section of PVC pipe or drainage tile. Harvest two to three weeks later.
Homegrown celery is delicious raw in salads and appetizers or cooked in sauces, soups, and stews.