Celery and Celeriac
Celery (Apium graveolens) is an herb and vegetable member of the parsley family. It is a cool-season crop that is a biennial, but is often grown as an annual for fresh market consumption. It does best when temperatures are relatively cool, particularly at night. Celery is a versatile ingredient for cooking, and during 2012, U.S. consumers used an average 6 pounds of fresh celery per person per year. The stalk is often served raw or cooked in vegetable dishes. Celery leaves are used much like an herb, similar to parsley, in flavoring soups, stews, salads and other dishes. Celeriac (Apium rapaceum) is also known as celery root, and is grown for its smooth celery flavor and long storage capacity.
Much of the commercial production for fresh market celery produced in the United States is concentrated in California and Michigan. A small portion of celery is harvested for processing to be used in prepared foods such as soups and juices. The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports that 4 Kentucky farms harvested celery in the 2012 growing season both for fresh market and for processing. Across the entire U.S., 488 farms reported harvesting 32,577 acres of celery with 30,385 of those acres of celery being harvested for fresh market sales. Celeriac is not reported in the Kentucky or United States 2012 Census of Agriculture information. Celery and celeriac appear to be interesting crops for direct marketing, such as farmers’ markets sales and sales to restaurants.
Celery is a relatively quick crop to produce, while celeriac requires a longer growing season than most vegetables. Both also require a consistent amount of water throughout the entire growing season and prefer cool temperatures. When drought stressed, celery becomes tough, stringy and stronger in flavor. Conga, Merengo, Samba and Tango are varieties that should do well in Kentucky. Samba and Merengo are resistant to Fusarium and Tango is tolerant to this disease, which is soilborne. Tango is considered to be sweeter and more tender than the other varieties listed here and is thus an excellent prospect for direct sales. Mars and Brilliant are two very good celeriac varieties. Celery and celeriac both require fertile, well-drained soils with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. Irrigation is very important throughout the growing season. Sow seeds indoors in March, about 10 - 12 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Keep soil temperature warm and germination should occur within three weeks. Transplant outdoors in late May to mid-June after last frost has passed.