Fig. 78. Celery Blanched With Boards.
Paper may also be used in blanching. A machine has been devised which first places a strip of paper against the row and then throws soil against the paper. The individual plants may also be wrapped by hand with brown paper, although this is a tedious operation.
The proper time to harvest is determined by the size of the plants, the thoroughness of blanching, prices and the weather conditions. The market will sometimes pay better prices for very early celery, partly blanched and two-thirds grown, than for late, fully matured, perfectly blanched stalks.
Except in the very large commercial plantations the usual method is to lift the plants with a spading shovel or a fork. Some growers prefer to cut the roots at the proper depth with large, sharp butcher knives, a plan which is especially satisfactory in sandy or muck soils and when the crop has been blanched with boards. In the great producing sections, machines are employed to cut the roots. The machine is a very simple device drawn by two horses. It consists of a U-shaped steel cutter 5 or 6 inches wide and « inch thick mounted beneath and between two wheels. The blade is adjustable, so that it may be set at any depth. When in operation a row is loosened as fast as a team will walk.
It is customary to remove the worthless outside leaves before hauling to the packing shed, where the plants may receive further and more careful trimming. The roots are also cut as desired (413) in the field. The plants may be placed on trays or in boxes preparatory to hauling to the packing room. Whatever plan is used exposure to the sun and the drying air of the field should be as brief as possible.
In many instances the crop is shipped in the rough direct from the field to city storage houses, where the plants are trimmed and washed by the commission dealers before shipping or delivering to retailers. When this is the practice the plants are graded and a few of the outside leaves are removed before being packed in the field, but the roots are not cut off. The growers in several sections ship to the retailers without removing or trimming the roots, while most producers find this a necessary practice. The roots may be cut off straight near the base of the stalks or tapered rapidly to a blunt point, the latter method being necessary when bunching flat as shown in Figure 79.
The flat method of bunching, i. e., the tying of three or four plants together, is popular on some of the eastern markets. The butts are always tied first, to give the spreading and arched appearance of the stalks, as illustrated in Figure 79. Many local growers prefer to tie in round bunches containing three or four plants, while the most extensive shippers tie in round or rectangular bunches of a dozen plants. Although jute is used by some growers in tying, pink, red or blue tape made for the purpose is very generally employed.
Fig. 79. Celery Bunched For Market. A Round Bunch Of One Dozen Plants On The Left, And A Flat Bunch Of Three Plants On The Right.
The washing may be done before or after tying, the more general practice being to wash before bunching.
When tied flat, washing after bunching is the more convenient way. The use of pure, cold water in washing is important from a sanitary standpoint. It also freshens and helps to preserve the celery in a firm, crisp condition.
Rigid grading is important, but often neglected. Some of the most careful growers and shippers make four grades-. The culls or smallest sizes are used largely by hotels and restaurants and served as hearts.
The standard crate in many sections is 24 × 24 inches at the base. From 6 to 16 dozen bunches are packed in this crate, depending upon the variety and the grade of celery. Packs holding 6, 8, 12 or 16 dozen plants are common. Although the 24 × 24 inch crate is most frequently seen, various other sizes and forms are in use.
Michigan growers use crates which vary in size. Measurements made of a lot of packs on an express truck ready for shipment gave the following dimensions: 6 × 12 × 24 inches; 6 × 16 × 24 inches; 6 × 20 × 24 inches; 6 × 26 × 24 inches; 6 × 30 × 24 inches. The number of dozen bunches in the various crates varied from 4 to 24.
The early crop is often wrapped in rather heavy brown paper for shipment and the crates frequently lined with paper.
The crop is handled largely in refrigerator cars holding about 160 crates, small air spaces being provided between the crates. When packing in the field the growers endeavor to have the celery in the cars within two hours after lifting from the row.
Appearance when offered at the market has everything to do with the sale of celery. The stalks must be clean, well blanched, bright and free from rust or dead leaves.
For the successful storage of celery the air should be kept cool and fairly moist. This crop should be stored before hard freezing weather and the tops should be dry when the plants are stored. Ventilation is generally necessary on warm days.
Home gardeners often protect the crop in the winter where it was grown by ridging the soil until the tops are nearly covered. Corn stalks or other coarse litter is then placed over the row and held in place with boards or earth. As the weather gets colder, coarse manure is added to the depth of 4 or 5 inches, covering the entire ridge. By this method the celery is kept fresh and crisp, but taking it out during the winter is rather inconvenient.