European Cutting Celery is now where celeriac was as recently as five years ago - obscure and largely misunderstood, but evoking curiosity. Unsurprisingly, it's the home gardeners who are leading the way in cutting celery fandom, since it allows them to have homegrown celery flavour without the huge space requirements or hilling and blanching needed for stalk celery.
Leaf or Cutting Celery, also known as Soup Celery was used centuries ago in Europe and the Orient, where its ancestor was known as 'smallage'. It is a very hardy robust plant, closely related to wild celery and can survive temperatures as low as minus 12°C (10°F) and is rarely affected by pests and diseases. This biennial plant is usually grown as an annual and forms a bushy branching plant with glossy leaves and thin fine stems.
Bred for the leaves rather than stalks, Leaf Celery is a doppelganger for flat leaf parsley (albeit a gargantuan mutant parsley) but the very potent and peppery celery aroma gives it away. It is a darker green, with thin, rounded, flexible stalks and aromatic leaves and tastes exactly like regular stalk celery, but with a slightly stronger, herbier taste.
Leaf Celery is the easiest variety of celery to grow. Great for container gardens and small herb gardens, the compact plants grow to around 20 to 25cm (8 to 12in) tall and are very leafy. They are easily grown in containers which can be moved undercover in winter it extend the cropping season.
Leaf Celery is used and taste just like its giant cousins, but is much easier to grow and no blanching is required. It is naturally vigorous, it can be grown as cut and come again salad crop and will grow back beautifully. The leaves are best eaten while tender it can be used like an herb or in cooked dishes as you would stalk celery. Great in dressings or for use in soups, stews and salads, pies and stuffings or any recipe where either celery or parsley is called for.
Sowing: Sow in Spring from February to June.
Leaf celery is a bit finicky to get started but once transplanted into the garden, it is very easy to grow. It will take around 85 days from sowing to first harvest. Start the seeds indoors no sooner than 2 to 3 months before your last frost date. Germination can be erratic and the seed is best surface sown February indoors or in a greenhouse. Outdoor sown seed rarely germinates satisfactorily.
Sow into flats or modules containing a good quality well drained soil. John Innes seed mix or similar. Surface sow, do not cover as they need light to germinate. Water from the base of the container, never directly on top of the seeds.
Soil temperature should be kept higher than 10°C (50°F) to ensure good germination. Germinates in 2 to 3 weeks. The seedlings should be transplanted when they have their first set of true leaves and are still small.
Leaf celery is not frost tolerant so only plant outdoors once all risk of frosts has passed. Space the plants 25cm (10in) from each other. Full sun or partial shade suit them equally well.
Celery is a very thirsty plant, and must have a strong continuous supply of water. Although leaf celery's are fairly tolerant of drought, don't plant them in very dry places and water when dry.
Leaf celery is very suited to growing in a container, water well and moved undercover in winter to extend the cropping season.
Leaf celery takes a little while to germinate and grows somewhat slowly, but once you get it going you can keep cutting from the same small patch all season. A couple square feet is plenty for a small family.
Plants can be cut frequently, starting about 4 weeks after planting. It will regrow and remain productive over many months.
Use the entire sprig, or use the stalk and leaves separately. The stalks are more concentrated with flavour. Add cutting celery to pretty much anything that calls for a refreshing bite, to soups, stews, salads or sanwiches. Once the seasons change, use it in mirepoix--the French combination of carrots, onion, and celery--for soups and other autumn dishes.
Cutting Celery dries exceptionally well, resulting in a potent herb that lasts well beyond its short season. Simply hang upside down in a well-ventilated area. If drying isn't an option, chop and cover with olive oil and freeze into ice cube trays to keep the fresh flavour handy for use over the winter months.
With a little encouragement, cutting celery will establish itself as a reseeding biennial, producing umbels of white flowers in summer which give way to a rain of little celery seeds (the edible kind).
Allow one large cutting celery plant to stand until the seeds are fully ripe and it starts to sheds its seeds. You can either collect and store the seeds for next year or let it reseed so that you will have plenty of plants for the next two years.
The growing plant is an insect repellent, celery repels the cabbage white butterfly so is a good companion for all brassicas. It is a good companion for leeks, onions, spinach, tomatoes, and French beans.
Flowers for celery are cosmos, daisies and snapdragons.
Wild celery is a Mediterranean marsh plant that thrives in damp ditches, often near the coast in many parts of Europe. Ancient literature documents that celery, or a similar plant form, was cultivated for medicinal purposes before 850 B.C. It was widely used as a medicinal plant by the Greeks and Romans.
Although celery is believed to originate from the Mediterranean, indigenous ‘wild’ relatives of celery are found in southern Sweden, the British Isles, Egypt, Algeria, India, China, New Zealand, California and southernmost portions of South America.
Known as smallage in England, it was used to flavour soups. The modern equivalent is cutting celery. The celery as we know it today and celeriac (which is grown for its bulbous lover part of the stem) were bred in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively.
The genus name Apium was the classical name for celery-like plants. The word was used by Pliny but was called apion by Dioscorides. (Some relate it to the Celtic ‘apon’, water, as its preferred habitat.)
The species name graveolens means 'strong smelling', it derives from the Latin gravis meaning 'grave or 'heavy', and olens from the verb 'oler' meaning 'smelling'. Similarly, the word oleracea means 'garden herbs or vegetables used in cooking'
The Greek writer Homer referred to celery as 'selinon'. The Latin name was 'selinun' and the French name 'celeri' is similar to the name we use today.
Leaf celery is also called Cutting Celery, Soup Celery, Parcel, Par-cel, Smallage, Zwolsche Krul, and German celery.
Three kinds of celery are cultivated for culinary use, one for the stalks, another for the roots, and the third for its leaves. All three are related and will cross pollinate if grown next to each other.
- Stalk Celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce),
Sometimes called blanched or bleached celery is grown for its crunchy stalks.
- Celeriac (Apium graveolens var. rapaceum )
Sometimes called celery root is grown for its bulbous roots and usually sold with its leaves removed.
- Leaf Celery (Apium graveolens variety secalinum),
Also known as cutting or soup celery it is grown for its leaves. Typically the only place to buy it is in Asian or farmers markets where it can be found under the name of Chinese Celery or 'Kintsai'.
Growing in popularity, different varieties are now available: Green Leaf, Red Leaf and Curled Leaf forms are now available as seed. (search 'celery' for more details).
|Average Seed Count||1,600 Seeds|
|Seeds per gram||3,200 seeds / gram|
|Common Name||Cutting or Soup Celery. Chinese Kintsai|
|Other Common Names||Soup Celery, Parcel, Par-cel, Smallage, Zwolsche Krul, German or French Celery|
|Other Language Names||GR: Schnittsellerie|
|Species||graveolens var. secalinum|
|Time to Sow||Sow in spring from February to June.|
|Germination||2 to 3 weeks at 15°C (59°F).|
|Time to Harvest||85 days from sowing to first harvest.|