Vegetables - Celery
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Celery seed should be sown out of doors as soon as the soil is in first-class condition to work. The seed bed should be thoroughly pulverized and raked very finely to give the small seeds a chance to start. Two or three square yards of ground," says Irving C. Smith of Wisconsin, "is plenty to grow plants for yourself and to give your friends. Don't be afraid to cover the seed. There is an old threadbare theory that celery seed will not come up if covered. This is not true. The seed grows with much more certainty if covered reasonably, one-fourth to one-half inch. If sown broadcast, rake it in and press the soil down with a board.
" The soil may be any good garden soil. The essentials are a soil that will not bake, plenty of fertility, and water. Here, again, we often hear the statement that celery must have a muck bed to be a success. I have grown celery for over 20 years on a sandy loam, varying all the way from a sharp sand to a black loam with very little sand in it. Given the required amount of fertility and moisture, the loam soil does better than the muck. The quality of the muck-grown stock is not nearly up to that grown on loam.
" An old strawberry bed which was well matured and plowed when set makes a very fine celery bed. As soon as the berries are off, spread on a liberal dressing of well-rotted, fine manure and plow; then another dressing of fine manure on top, disk very thoroughly and drag. Do not begrudge a little work here, as good preparation is a necessity to good success.
"At this time the plants should be, if you have taken good care of them, about 6 or 8 inches high, and the size of a large lead pencil. Pull only the largest plants and clip the roots to 3 to 4 inches and the tops to 4 to 5 inches long. Wet at once to prevent wilting. It is important that celery be set in straight rows, so draw a line up taut where the row is to be and set plants close to it.
The plants should be 5 to 6 inches apart in the row and the rows 3/ to 4 feet apart. In setting use a common garden trowel to open. the hole and be sure it is as deep as the root is long. Set the plants in so only the root is in the ground and pack the soil very firmly. Water enough so the. soil is wet as deep as the roots go. If weather is cool or damp for a few days, only one watering is necessary, but if very hot and dry it may be necessary to water once or twice more to ,insure a good start.
" Cultivate thoroughly as soon as plants are started and keep it up all the season. Do not throw dirt into the hearts of the plants, when cultivating or banking. When plants are a foot high comes the first banking. Straighten up the leaves with one hand and draw earth up to the plant with the other. This makes the plants grow erect and fills out in the heart. The banking should be repeated as the plants grow, until the row is banked to a foot or 15 inches high. A part of it may be left with only enough banking to hold the stalks up straight. This will keep longer than the fully banked and blanched.
" Now that you have the crop grown, care must be taken not to spoil it in harvesting or storing. The digging of the celery should be deferred -until the latest date possible. If it can be left till the afternoon of the last warm day, when you see that a sharp freeze is at hand, so much the better. With a tile spade or shovel, dig under the plants so as to cut off the roots 1 or 2 inches below the leaf stalks. Pull off all the small, half-grown stalks from the outside of each plant.
" If you have a cool cellar with an earth floor, take the celery there and set it up straight, throwing a little earth against the roots f each row as it is set up. Pack rather loosely, but not so loosely as to sag over on one side. The temperature should be as near the freezing point as possible. If cellar has a brick or cement floor, a little earth may be brought in, or the celery packed in boxes in the field by putting a little earth in the bottom and packing as above. Boxes should be about as high as the celery. These can be carried and stored in the cellar.
" It is an aid to keeping if a part of the leaves are trimmed off before digging. This can be done with a sickle by clipping off both sides of the row. Pack the different varieties separately, as the white sorts are ready to use first."
PREPARING CELERY FOR MARKET
" The cleaning and dressing of celery should be done in the cellar or pit," continues Mr. Smith. "First hold the head in the left hand with the root toward you and with the other hand pull off the outside leaves, using the thumb mostly, turning the head at the same time from right to left so the part that is stripped off will be up, giving you a chance to see what is done. When the head has been worked once around it should be finished. Then turn the root from you and cut off to a point, making four to six cuts to a head, cutting from you as if whittling a stick to a point. The knife is held in the hand all the time. When two are working together, I usually have one clean off the waste and lay the head down for the other to trim the roots. All yellow, decayed, or green stalks should be removed, even if the heads are left a little small by so doing, as a medium-size, well-blanched head will sell better than the same head with one or two green stalks still on it.
" My washing room is in the basement of the packing house, where I have a large kettle in a brick furnace for heating water, a box tub with plug hole in bottom for washing, and a table for the unwashed celery. The tub should be about 30 inches wide, 42 to 48 inches long (big enough for two washes), and 15 to 18 inches deep. It is necessary to have 12 to 15 inches of water in the tub so the sand and other dirt may settle to the bottom, else your water is very quickly too dirty to use.
" The water should be go to 100 degrees, or about blood heat, to get best results. Dump a box of celery in the tub with the butts toward you. Hold the head to be washed in left hand about half out of the water, and brush it down with a soft scrub brush (one with bristles similar to a common shoe brush is best), running the brush down to the leaves each stroke. This keeps the brush fresh and clean, and saves the necessity of dipping it; also brushes off the rotten particles which may be clinging to the leaves. Turn head as in first dressing, from right to left, so washed surface comes up. Sometimes it is necessary to push out a stalk from the head a little to get the dirt out from the inside. Have a quarter or third-inch mesh, square wire sieve at hand to dip out the leaves and floating particles from tub after each box is washed.
"Now comes the tying. The tyer must be careful or everyone will not get equal value. I have found three heads to the bunch the best method for our trade. The reasons are, the retailer does not have to cut bunches, and so sells three stalks many times where one or two would go if sold loose. Then, too, one can, by tying three in a bunch, make bunches so nearly even in size that there is little occasion to sort it over to get the biggest, and so saves much breakage and loss to the retailer."
"My last crop of winter celery," writes Solon P. Powell of Hancock county, Ohio, " yielded about 1,200 dozen to the acre, and sold in the local market for 30 cents a dozen. The stalks are put up in bunches of 12 each and delivered to the grocers in our town, where there is no market house. Generally the crop is finished by January 15. Early celery is taken direct from the field and the winter crop is first trenched until ready for use.
"Winter celery is stored in earth trenches and in cellars where there is no danger of freezing. Earth is used out of doors and straw in the cellar. All the culls are sold, the demand is so great. The trimmings are fed to cows and chickens. Butter needs no coloring matter when cows eat celery leaves when fed green, as trimmed."
" We have secured 2,400 dozen salable heads to the acre, but usually count upon 2,000 dozen," says B. B. Overhiser. " These we ship by express, re-tail at 35 cents, or wholesale for 28 cents. In car-load lots we sell at 20 cents a dozen. Our boxes hold six to 12 dozen. Most of our celery is marketed by November 15, but frequently we hold some in storage for Thanksgiving. For winter use we put the stalks in cold frames, bank with earth, and cover to keep out the frost. We usually require about 5 pounds of seed, which costs about $2 a pound. Most of our surplus young plants are sold in March."
"Among the varieties I like the White Plume for early," writes Frank S. Wells of Michigan. "The plants grow rapidly and are easily blanched. In the fall the stalks and leaves become white without earthing up, but they are improved by banking. The variety does not keep as well as some other kinds, however.
" The Golden Self-Blanching is not as early as the White Plume, but it is superior in quality. It is readily blanched, becoming a clear golden color, both stalk and leaf; but it is a dwarf in its habit of growth and should have rich ground and care to be satisfactory. However, it is well liked.
"The Golden Rose is a sport of the Golden Self-Blanching. I tried it last year, but it was not satisfactory.
" For winter celery I grew last year the French Success. It is a much more vigorous grower than the others mentioned, and seems to stand dry weather better. It is slow to blanch, but is good when it is at last ready for use."
Celery will stand repeated frosts without in-jury, but it is ruined if it is once frozen. Hence it must be stored for the winter before too cold weather sets in. C. O. Ormsbee of Washington county, Vermont, says: " I have tried a great many methods of keeping it through the winter, none of which has been perfectly satisfactory, but I have had by far the best success with the following method:
I make a box i foot deep and 4 feet wide and as long as may be necessary or convenient. This I place where it is to remain and select a location where the temperature will be as near 5o degrees as possible, and where there will be just barely light enough to enable one to read.
I put a layer of sandy loam or rich garden soil 3 inches deep in the box and saturate it thoroughly with water, pouring on all that the earth will contain and perhaps a little more. I allow the celery to remain in the trenches as long as I dare risk the danger of freezing. Then I dig it, strip off the outer worthless leaves, and set the roots well in the wet earth in the box, crowding the bunches as close together as possible. In this condition the celery will take root and grow sufficiently to last through the winter or at least longer than if stored in any other manner."
According to Alexander Huth of Hampden county, Massachusetts, " Celery seed for the early supply should be sown broadcast about February 15 in a moderately heated hotbed, or in shallow boxes filled with good garden loam lightly pressed down. Cover the seed with soil about one-eighth inch deep and press it down firmly. Set the boxes (if they are used) in the house near a sunny window where the temperature averages about 70 degrees and water freely. A single hotbed sash 3 feet wide and 6 feet long is large enough to start 20,000 plants. After the second or third leaves have appeared the plant should be transplanted in other boxes or put in moderately heated hotbed or a cold frame that may be covered on cold nights.
" Set the plants about 1 inch apart in the row and 3 inches between rows, and should the first two or three days after transplanting be very bright and warm, a little shading during the middle of the day will be advisable.
" After the plants have made a growth of 5 to 6 inches they should be set out of doors in a well-mannered and thoroughly prepared soil. In the home garden where space is generally limited, the young plants can be set in well-prepared rows 5 or 6 inches apart in the row between some early crop, such as early peas, spinach or radishes."