But for all of celery’s uses, I never need more than a stalk or two at a time. With celery in the garden, I can cut off what I need without harming the plant. Instead of a buying whole head at the supermarket, and watching it wilt in the vegetable draw, I can preserve the plant through the entire summer. I bought 6 plants for about $2.50. And I still have 3 full heads.
This is the third year I’ve grown celery, and by far this was the most successful. As an experiment, I planted 3 seedlings in the garden and 3 in a planter box on the deck. Neither reached “supermarket” size, but the plants on the deck were decidedly smaller and slightly anemic despite the extra sun in its location.
The celery in the garden had proper spacing… at least 18 inches between plants. They grew larger than any other year… and height-wise, they looked good. The ribs were thin with brown streaks. I attribute the brown stalks to the excess rain we had this summer. Also the celery was not in a particularly sunny spot, which probably contributed to its stunted growth.
When I harvested a plant this morning it looked like 10 small heads had sprouted from the one plant. I wonder if I should have harvested a “mini-head” at a time instead of a stalk at a time. I’ll have to experiment with that next year.
In the meantime, winter is looming. We’ve already had our first snow-fall, and who knows when we’ll get the next. I’ve become more aggressive about using celery, not just as an aromatic in cooking but as a featured ingredient.
Buried deep in my files of recipes, I found a recipe for “Celery Caesar” from Daniele Baliani, a chef I knew in Boston a long time ago…
A Very Celery Caesar… Shavings of Pecorino and Celery Dressing
adapted from Daniele Baliani
4 large stalks of celery, sliced thin
2 cups of mixed lettuce leaves – including romaine, arugula and/or mesclun mix
1 small bulb of celeriac, peeled, julienned and blanched
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano
salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks celery
½ bunch parsley
½ bunch basil
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
¼ cup warm water
1 tbs. fresh chopped garlic
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
6 inner hearts of celery with the leaves
2 oz. Pecorino shavings
4 slices white bread for croutons
1. Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt. While waiting for the water to boil, set aside an ice bath. When the water boils, Add from the dressing ingredient list the celery, parsley and basil. Cook for 30 seconds, remove from heat, and soak in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain well.
2. To make the dressing: place the blanched celery, parsley, basil, olive oil, water garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a blender. Over medium speed, puree until smooth and bright green.
3. In a large salad bowl, combine the thin slices of celery, lettuces and julienne of celeriac. Add the grated Pecorino and toss the dressing. Adjust seasoning.
4. Cut the white bread into triangles and brush with a little oil and Pecorino and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until crispy and nutty brown.
5. To assemble: Divide the salad onto small plates and garnish with croutons. Top it all off with dressed celery leaves and drizzle more of the green dressing for a dramatic finish