Centuries ago, wild celery was employed by the ancient Egyptians as a plant with medicinal properties. It wasn’t until the 9th century that celery (Apium graveolens) gained recognition. Even then, it was primarily known for its therapeutic benefits. This plant’s wild form thrives in marshes, saline soils, coasts, and swamps.
Types of celery
Depending on the variety, celeriac grows up to 60 cm high. It forms flat-round, grey-brown tubers weighing 300 g to 600 g. The tubers are the underground, edible storage organs of the vegetable. They contain essential oils and add a spicy aroma to soups, meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. However, growing celeriac requires a bit of finesse and good watering.
The celery stalk has a smaller root tuber and long, fleshy stalks. The plants must be piled up with soil or wrapped in dark foil to achieve a pure light green color. As with white asparagus, the lack of light inhibits the formation of chlorophyll. There are also varieties whose pale color has already been cultivated.
Leaf and cut celery
Leaf and cut celery usually do not form tubers but thinly branched taproots. Deep green leaves sit on their stems, which contain a lot of essential oil and are often used as a spice.
Planting celery as crop rotation and mixed culture
If possible, only plant celery in the same bed every four years. Suitable previous crops are, for example, legumes or winter vetch. To protect the plants from cabbage whites, place cabbages between celery. Celery also goes well with leeks.
Cut celery is a biennial plant. It needs winter protection as it does not tolerate frost well. Planting with beans, cucumbers, garlic, cabbage, kohlrabi, herbs, leeks, carrots, leeks, beetroot, spinach, and tomatoes is beneficial. Mixed cultures with peas, potatoes, or corn are not well suited.
Celeriac and celery are usually preferred and then planted. Sow the seeds in seed trays in late February to early March. You should press the seeds lightly and moisten them well. The seed germinates fastest in a bright place at temperatures around 20 °C. It is best to use a greenhouse for this or place the cultivation on the windowsill.
After cutting, you can keep the seedlings cooler, but if possible, not cooler than 15 °C. The little plants react sensitively to temperatures that are too low and shoot. They form unwanted inflorescences.
When the first real leaves appear, the young celery plants are pricked out and planted in pots or boxes with more planting distance. As soon as the seedlings have developed into strong, well-rooted young plants, you can transplant them outdoors. The ideal time for this is after the ice saints in May.
Plant celeriac as high in the ground as possible; This allows the tubers to develop well. Planting too deep can deform the roots. Planting too shallow can result in secondary roots, affecting the quality of the tubers. To find the right depth, orient yourself on the young plants’ position in the pots or the propagation bed. Space the plants at least 50cm x 50cm apart in the bed to prevent diseases such as the Septoria leaf spot; growing at 70cm x 70cm spacing may be necessary.
Cut celery is easy to care for but should be protected from frost. The plant can overgrow as it easily self-seeds. Cut celery prefers partially shaded to sunny locations and humus-rich, well-drained, slightly moist soil. It can be pre-cultivated indoors, in a greenhouse, or sown directly into the field. You can also plant the plant in a container.
Celeriac and celery sticks require loose soil. That’s why you should regularly hoe and loosen the soil with a garden hoe. Mix in mature compost to the soil before planting.
A good water supply is particularly important. Drought can cause the plants to bolt. Celery has the highest water requirement from mid-August to early October. Then it would be best to water the plants once or twice daily. Cover the bed with mulch to keep the water from evaporating too quickly.
Tuber formation is promoted with the help of fertilizers rich in potassium. It also prevents the flesh of the tubers from becoming blotchy and the plant from being stunted. Organic fertilizers such as horn shavings do not make the tubers hollow.
You can also occasionally water the plants with salty cooking water. It would be best to fertilize twice during the cultivation period: in summer and autumn. Stone dust and small amounts of garden lime also promote growth.
The harvest of celeriac can start in October. Keeping the harvested tubers wrapped in newspaper in the refrigerator is best. Avoiding plastic bags, as the tubers rot quickly, would be best.
Before the onset of frost in October and November, cut off all the roots, leaves, and rotten spots and place the celery bulbs in a box with sand to store the bulbs. The environment must have high humidity and is cool and frost-free. Also, ensure that the head of the tuber and the heart leaves are not covered by sand.
You can also start harvesting the celery in October by pulling the plant and its roots out. Due to its sensitivity to frost, you should always harvest celery before the first night frost. However, you can cut off and harvest individual stalks of celery as early as June, provided you do not damage the underground part of the plant.
The best way to store celery is in the fridge. At temperatures around zero, the stems stay fresh for up to four weeks. Place the celery in a box filled with moist sand for longer storage. First, you should cut off the stems about 10 cm above the first branching of the leaves and fold them in with some newspaper.
In the first year, the leaves of cut celery can be harvested continuously from the end of July to mid-October or until the first frost. If you leave the heart leaves, you can harvest every four weeks.
Celery health benefits
Here are some health benefits of celery:
Rich in Nutrients: Celery is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. It is also a good source of antioxidants, such as luteolin and apigenin, which may help protect against cellular damage.
May Help Lower Inflammation: Celery contains several compounds, including apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin, with anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds may help reduce inflammation linked to many chronic diseases.
May Reduce Blood Pressure: Some studies suggest that compounds in celery may help lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels and improving blood flow. This effect may be due to the high levels of potassium in celery, which helps regulate blood pressure.
May Help Improve Digestion: The fiber in celery can promote regularity and support digestive health. It may also help prevent constipation, reduce bloating, and improve gut health.
May Help Prevent Chronic Diseases: Celery contains several antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. For example, luteolin has been shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s worth noting that while celery may have potential health benefits, more research is needed to confirm these effects and determine optimal intake levels. Additionally, individuals with celery allergies should avoid consuming celery. People taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, should consult their healthcare provider before adding celery to their diet.
Diseases and pests
Typical diseases of celery are the Septoria leaf spot and celery scab.
Septoria leaf spot, also known colloquially as celery rust, is caused by a fungus. Yellowish-brown to grey-brown spots form on the leaves, with black dots in the middle. The leaves become yellow and die. In the case of celeriac, there is also no tuber growth.
Celery scab is also a fungal disease. It becomes noticeable through initially gray, later up to two millimeters thick, reddish-brown crusts on the tuber. The fungal disease occurs mainly when the weather is too humid.
If you’ve already had problems with leaf spot disease or celery scab in your garden, prefer growing resilient celery varieties. Don’t plant celeriac too tightly in the bed; This allows the plants to dry out faster after rainfall. A suitable crop rotation is also important, as the fungi can survive in the soil. You can also use an appropriate fungicide if necessary.
Typical pests of celery are voles. To prepare the bed, you can bury a protective grid as an obstacle.
The celery fly can damage both the tuber and the perennial. Prevent an infestation by covering the plants with a close-meshed plant protection net. If the celery fly has already spread, only pesticides usually help.
Snails are also typical pests of Apium graveolens. Also, protect your celery plants with a suitable protective fence or snail protection.
What is Leek?
Leeks, scientifically known as Allium porrum, belong to the Amaryllidaceae family and are commonly referred to as “leeks.” The plant originated in Italy and was believed to be introduced to Central Europe during the Middle Ages. The modern Leek is a domesticated version of field garlic, which has been cultivated for thousands of years. Leeks detoxify and are often used to stimulate the kidneys and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
How does Leek grow?
Leek grows as a biennial root vegetable up to 80 cm tall. In contrast to the wild form, the plant has no bulb. Instead, a dense root system grows.
The leaves are fused in the shaft area and hangover like a strap. They are white to light green in the shank while showing a blue-green color at the top.
Plant leeks: crop rotation and mixed culture
Planting leeks in a bed where new potatoes have previously grown is best. Cucumbers, kohlrabi, marjoram, carrots, radishes, lettuce, and celery are ideal for a mixed culture. However, avoid bush and pole beans, peas, and beetroot.
When you sow, leeks depend on when you want to harvest. Summer leeks can be grown in a greenhouse or on a windowsill from January. From March, you can put the plants in the cold frame. You sow winter leeks directly outdoors from May.
Flat trays are best for sowing. To do this, place two seeds in earth press pots or pot trays with a diameter of 3 cm to 4 cm.
Tip: If you treat the seeds with a decoction of valerian, they will germinate faster.
You can plant young plants directly in the bed as an alternative to sowing. Plant the leeks at a planting distance of 15 cm to 20 cm and leave a 40 cm to 60 cm gap between the rows.
Trim the leaves of vigorous plants by a third for summer planting. As a result, less water evaporates.
Plant the leeks in 15 cm deep grooves and place the vegetables vertically in the soil. Make sure that no soil falls into the leaf axils. Water the young plants so the soil is covered, and the Leek is firm.
Occasionally you till the soil between the rows with a garden hoe. Also, pile the leeks with soil and water the plants regularly to improve crop yields. Piling causes the shanks to become smooth and white. In the case of winter leeks, this also serves as protection against freezing.
Note: Pile the soil below the leaf axils; you don’t want it to fall into the leaf rings.
Prepare the bed generously with compost before planting. You fertilize the vegetables every two to four weeks with a little comfrey or nettle manure in the irrigation water. Alternatively, spread a little organic vegetable fertilizer, which you work into the surface when piling up.
You can bleach leeks not only by mounding but also by hole planting. To do this, dig 20 cm deep holes in the ground with a dipper and plant the plants in them. If you water the Leek, the roots get in close contact with the ground. At intervals, you pile them up twice with soil. This way, you get delicate, pale shafts from 40 cm to 50 cm long.
Summer leeks can be harvested between the beginning of July and the end of August. The harvest time for autumn leeks is from September to December, and for winter leeks from December to the end of May.
You can also use hardy winter varieties for seed harvesting. The “Freezo” variety is ideal for this. Leave the strongest plants over the winter so that they form balls of flowers in early summer. In summer, cut off the dried stems. Dry the umbels in a warm, airy place and thresh the seeds.
Store leeks wrapped in soil or sand in a cool basement. The vegetables stay fresh for a few days in the refrigerator. Wrap it in a plastic bag or foil to keep the onion-like smell from spreading to other foods. You can also freeze leeks, but then only process them from frozen. Otherwise, the texture and taste will change after defrosting.
When processing leeks in the kitchen, you remove the outermost layer, the root slice, and the upper ends of the green leaves. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly under running water. The green parts of the plant have a more intense taste than the bleached ones.
Leeks are suitable for cooking, steaming, stewing, blanching, or searing. It can be a side dish with soups, quiches, stews, and casseroles. For example, add the Leek raw to a salad.
Summer leeks have a delicate taste. Prepare the vegetables gently to preserve the vitamins and elements of the plant. You can also use the tart-tasting green Leek and the up to 15 cm long parts above the white shaft.
Tip: Leeks benefit from spices such as chili, tarragon, chervil, caraway, lovage, nutmeg, parsley, and thyme.
Leek has only 61 kcal per 100 g. In addition, 100 g of the vegetables contain 45% vitamin K, 100% beta carotene, and 25% vitamin C, of the recommended daily requirement. The high inulin content is positive for the intestinal flora, and the beta-carotene has antioxidant properties. These should protect against harmful free radicals. The vegetables also contain the trace element manganese, which ensures better absorption of vitamin B1.
Leek Diseases and pests
Leek is a robust and easy-care vegetable that occasionally shows pests and diseases. Well-known pests on leeks are the onion fly, leek moths, and nematodes.
An example of a fungal disease is paper spot disease. You can recognize an infestation by white spots on the leaf tips. Thoroughly remove infected plant parts and debris, as the fungus can survive in permanent bodies in the soil for several years. That’s why you change the bed for growing leeks every year.
If orange spots and blemishes appear, the rust fungus is responsible. This nests on the outer leaves. Since you remove these anyway during processing, combating them is not necessary.
The most common pest is the leek fly; Their larvae eat small burrows in the tips of the leaves, causing the affected plants to rot and die inside. You usually only notice this during harvest.
In conclusion, growing celery and leeks can be a rewarding and flavorful addition to any garden. Both plants require well-draining soil, consistent moisture, and ample sunlight. Whether you are planting celery from seed or transplants or leeks from seedlings, providing them with proper care throughout their growth cycle is essential to ensure a bountiful harvest. You can successfully cultivate these versatile and delicious vegetables in your backyard with patience, dedication, and some know-how.