While reading some family history, I found that my namesake ancestor emigrated from the border of England and Wales in the mid 1800s, moved to an arid steppe and decided to grow celery in fallow desert soil. In fact, he grew quite a lot of it, and his celery was high in demand, especially in Denver as there were very few sources of it in the Rockies. Discovering this, I considered the gauntlet thrown down. If my ancestor could manage it in 1850s, I should be able to do it in 2012.
Celery has the reputation of being a difficult crop; the seedlings must be kept constantly moist and it requires a lot of water to grow. In order to keep the stalks from turning bitter, you need to blanch them with light blocking collars or by mounding up soil, but both methods encourage a lot of insect damage. Regardless, I dedicated a row in my raised bed to the stuff this summer. What surprised me is how ornamental it is. Really, I think it’s worth growing just for looks.
Still, most of my celery was bitter as I removed the collars early on as the earwigs were eating the plants to death. Also, I suspect I didn’t get enough water to some of the plants at crucial points. The water stressed plants’ flavor is especially bitter. I didn’t have a problem with the depraved sounding “black heart rot”, but I had hollow stalks and lots of bug damage. I did manage to get a couple of good bunches. Their flavor isn’t as sweet as some store bought types; I figure it’s because they weren’t collared.
Needless to say celery lived up to its reputation. But I think I will try it again, maybe in a self-watering pot where I could keep insects at bay and avoid drought stress. If I surrounded it with watercress it would make for a very pretty thing.