This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Apium graveolens, Linn.). Umbelliferae. A major garden vegetable, grown for its blanched leafstalks which are eaten raw and also used in cookery.
Biennial, sometimes annual, plants: If -stalks 6-15 in. long, bearing 3 pairs and a terminal 1ft. coarsely serrated and ternately lobed or divided. The flower-stalks are 2-3 ft. high, branched and leafy; flowers white, inconspicuous and borne in compound umbels; seeds very small, flattened on the sides, broader than long. An acrid, pungent flavor characterizes the wild plants.
The genus Apium is variously understood. As mostly accepted, it comprises some 15 or 20 species of annual or perennial glabrous herbs with pinnate or pinnately compound leaves, and small greenish white flowers in compound umbels; calyx-teeth wanting; petals ovate or rounded. The species are distributed widely in temperate regions and in the mountains in the tropics. A. graveolens is the one important species to the horticulturist. variety rapaceum is celeriac, a form or race in which the crown of the plant is thickened and turniplike (see Celeriac). The wild celery plant is not stout, nor are the leaf - stalks thickened, as they are in the domesticated races. It grows 1-2 ft. high when in bloom, in marshy places near the sea, on the coasts of Eu., Africa, and Asia; and it has run wild from cult, in some parts of N. Amer.
Celery probably was not cultivated until after the Middle Ages, and the varieties now grown so extensively have been developed within the past thirty-five years. It is not many years since this vegetable was regarded as a luxury and sold at prices that could be paid only by the wealthy, but today it is one of the standard vegetables and is produced in enormous quantities for the city markets. The industry is often highly profitable on muck areas, and thousands of acres of this land are used for celery-culture in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Florida and California. Intensive market-gardeners of the North regard it as one of their most profitable crops, and results are especially satisfactory if the land can be irrigated. When good markets are available, celery is an excellent crop to follow early garden crops, such as peas, beans, beets, bunch onions, radishes and other vegetables that mature in ample time to allow the after-planting of celery to mature. Soils that have been previously cropped the same season should be manured liberally before celery is planted.
The methods of cultivation and handling of celery depend so much on the variety that this part of the subject should be discussed at the outset. Celery may be classified into two general groups-green varieties, and the so-called self-blanching varieties. Formerly, the green kinds were grown almost exclusively, but commercial growers soon discovered that the self-blanching varieties possess certain cultural advantages that make them highly desirable from a business point of view. They are more easily blanched, and this is probably the most important consideration when the crop is to be grown for commercial purposes. This is particularly advantageous in the summer crop, and equally appreciated by those who plant large areas for the late market. When boards are used for blanching, more than twice as many plants may be set on an acre as when green varieties are employed and the crop bleached with earth. It is universally conceded, however, that the light-colored varieties are somewhat inferior in quality to the green sorts. For this reason it is a mistake to rely wholly on self-blanching varieties in the home garden.
Many home gardeners plant the light-colored kinds for summer use only, and green varieties for fall and winter use.
Fig. 857. The Boston ideal.
In some regions, a plant with a much-branched base is desired as in Fig. 857; but in general a less spreading or a lighter plant is grown, as in Fig. 858. These differences are mostly matters of the way in which the plants are grown, as to room in seed-bed and field.
Fig. 858. A good celery plant in the general market.
White Plume is one of the best known of the self-blanching varieties. It is vigorous in growth and attains a greater height than Golden Self-blanching and, for this reason, does not meet with as great favor among commercial growers. The quality is also inferior to Golden Self-blanching.
Golden Self-blanching is by far the most popular of American varieties. It is a favorite with amateurs and constitutes probably 90 per cent of all the celery grown in the United States. The plants attain a height of 14 to 20 inches, and are compact and stocky. The stems are short, thick, easily blanched to a creamy white, and the foliage is abundant.
Rose-ribbed Golden Self-blanching has a tinge of rose-color on the ribbing of the stems, which makes the variety attractive for the home garden. It is not grown largely for commercial purposes.
Giant Pascal is an old green-stem variety that is not surpassed in quality. In rich moist soils the plants attain a height of 30 inches or more. It is a favorite of home gardeners who take pride in producing tall, tender stalks of the highest quality.
Winter Queen is a more popular green variety among commercial growers than Giant Pascal. It does not attain such a great height and grows more compactly, so that less space is required between rows, and the crop is more convenient to store.
French Success is a very stocky compact winter variety that possesses excellent keeping qualities.
Boston Market is famous for its excellent quality. It is grown extensively about Boston in the home gardens and for commercial purposes. It is low, compact, crisp, tender and of the best flavor.
Many other varieties are planted to some extent, but the most important have been mentioned.