Friday, 28 September 2012


Does what you pick from your patch drive what you cook? Or does your cooking drive what you plant?
A bit of both I guess?

Two years ago I decided to try to grow celery. I decided to try to get those fat juicy stems - like the ones you get when you buy from the supermarket. My efforts failed pretty badly - for a couple of reasons.

1. El Nino -  Celery is a water hungry plant and, as it was a El Nino year, and I felt bad pouring loads of water on, so I plain didn't water it enough to get those thick stems.

2. Blanching -  I decided to do what it said in some of my gardening books and I tried to blanch the stems.  The method I chose was to tie the top of the stems together so that the inner ones were kept from the sun.  This was fine in theory, but what I found was that insects of many sorts decided that I had created a cosy over wintering spot for them. Then the plants started to rot in the centre.

Result - not good.

This year I decided to try again.  I also thought about what I use celery for and this helped to drive how I grew it and the attitude I had to thick white juicy stems. I use celery for (in order):
  • making stock
  • making stock
  • making stock
  • adding to meaty sauces - bolognese for instance
  • adding to other slow cooked meals
  • making a Chinese beef and celery dish
  • juicing with apple and carrot and ginger 
  • the occasional salad where I often use the leaves
Thinking this out made me realize that I didn't really need thirsty fat juicy white stems at all. Stock and meaty sauces don't require them and neither do Chinese dishes using celery. Thinnish stems that were greener and packed with flavour rather than water would be just fine for my purposes!

So I decided to grow celery again but this time not set off in a quest for the fat juicy white stems, so I didn't blanch and I didn't water like crazy.

The plants look healthy, they haven't rotted inside and there are no over-wintering insects. Yay! The stems are thin but packed full of flavour, they are green but I have read that the greener stems are actually more full of nutrients.

Armed with my celery stems I made one of my favorite dishes - Chinese-style beef and celery. I apologise for the lack of quantities - I make it up as I go along.

Chinese-style beef and celery (*from the patch)

olive oil
ginger - lots of it, cut up very small
garlic - crushed
spring onions
celery stems* -  cut up finely
chillies* -  cut up finely
snow peas* -  cut in thirds
beef - cut up into small thin pieces that will cook quickly
light soy sauce

Heat olive oil in the wok. Stir fry ginger garlic chillies and celery, when the celery has softened, toss in the beef and spring onions and cook till meat is nearly cooked as you like, toss the snow peas in with a splash of soy.

Eat with rice,  yum.

How do you grow your celery? What do you cook your celery with?


  1. Your unblanched celery looks much better than mine did. They went quite dark green and bitter. Then when I wrapped them in newspaper and tied them up, they were much more palatable. And the slugs thought so too. I'd cut the celery and hose it down outside to get rid of them!

    I've still got some in the freezer all chopped up and ready for bolognaise, stews, soups, stock (and stock, and stock!).

    When the glut was happening, I found a tasty celery gratin recipe here:

    I haven't tried the others but I might, one day.

    1. How good is this - one comment and three good ideas...

      I like the newspaper idea, love the chopping up your glut of celery for use later in the year and love the Hugh Hyphenated-Surname recipe. Thanks.

  2. My celery hasn't done very well this year and at the moment I really couldn't say why. Perhaps the cold? But not sure - last year I had beautiful fat and green stems - I don't blanch either but this year they have been skinny and stringy and if anything they've had more food and water. They're still OK for stock but not great for stir fry.

    1. How odd! Hard to work out what goes wrong sometimes , isnt it. Mine are a bit stringy but I cut the strings off and cut up really finely. It tastes just fantastic.

    2. I don't much like the strings even on shop-bought celery, especially if I'm using it raw. I use the vegetable peeler - a few quick swipes and they're gone!

      You've reminded me I've got some unplanted seedlings in the greenhouse - I only planted out half a (bought) punnet and meant to plant the rest out the next day - that was over a month ago! I wonder if they will come good or will end up stunted? If the weather ever improves for weekend gardening, I'll try for a stay of execution.

  3. Your point about thinking how you actually use the vegetable is a really good one. It's easy to just put things in without thinking of the outcome.

    I planted half a dozen celery seedlings early this year and did put stiff cardboard covers around them supported by a stake, to blanch them. We harvested them by cutting individual stems off. I had just about got to the end of the stems and was about to pull them out when I read that if you leave the base in the ground it will reshoot, so I did that, and they have now reshot for the second time. I wonder how long I can keep doing that with the same base? I didn't bother (forgot/ got lazy!!) putting the covers around them the second time, and haven't really noticed that much difference. I find that if you eat the stems fairly young they don't have the stringiness.

    1. I am glad I posted about celery! People are proving such handy hints. Love your method of blanching and really really like your method of harvesting.

      I harvest my fennel that way - cutting it off at ground level - and it re-shoots and grows quickly becasue of the established root system. Thanks for pointing out that this works for celery.

  4. I grow mine in part shade In blocks and I don't blanch either. Celery is just the best thing to grow because you use it infrequently yet you can't substitute anything for it. The most common usage in my house is in casseroles and meat dishes, but I like to use whole bunches for cream of celery soup and quite a bit over summer in my favourite pasta salad.

    1. I like the idea of finding things to plant in the shadier positions. You are right celery is hard to substitute.

  5. Your celery looks exactly like mine, which is a relief as this is the first year I've grown it and I thought it was just my gardening failure that it didn't look like the supermarket stuff. I use mine for stock too, and also a waldorf type salad with apple, walnuts and a very mayonnaise-y and lemon-y dressing. Your post and the many inspiring comments have made me want to try celery again next year!

  6. I have no idea why I grow celery, considering I don't like it much at all, but I tried it and it went to seed and I kept the seeds. When we moved to our new home I planted out the seeds. Many seedlings emerged and I planted them in pots and all sorts of spots in the garden. I knew little about growing it and have watched it over the year. The pot grown ones kind of just stopped growing. They didn't get enough food or water so they just seemed to freeze. I was expecting them to go to seed too, but so far ~ nothing. The other well feed ones grew really well. Thick but green. I found the closer I planted them together, the straighter they grew. The other thing I have noticed is nothing eats them! So maybe they are even unpalatable for bugs. I find them too strong, but our guinea pigs love them, so at least I am growing them for someone.
    Don't think I have really answered your question either lol



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