I wrote off celery when I made the commitment to seasonal local eating, passing up the pale stringy stalks in the grocery store to make mirrepoix, the aromatic carrots-onions-celery base of many recipes, with just local carrots and onions.
One September a Sequim farmer showed up to a farmer’s market with celery. I squealed gleefully, bought up his stock, and chopped and froze it for cooking all winter. The next September a Bainbridge farmer turned up with celery too. I said to myself, hey, you can grow that here? When tiny celery starts showed up at Valley Nursery the next spring I snapped them up. Since then I’ve dedicated half a bed in my garden to celery – in my shaded yard it turns out to be easy to grow, although it takes pretty much the whole growing season.
This year I grew nasturtiums right next to the celery. Mid-September they started collecting aphids. The attack began at the far end of the nasturtiums from the celery and moved closer until I pulled the nasturtiums and harvested the celery. A farmer I know reported losing a crop to aphids, so I was pretty pleased that the nasturtiums saved mine!
Like any vegetable you grow yourself, celery from your own garden tastes different. My crop this year was quite strong with a pronounced anise taste. The stalks are smaller, they’re not diet food, but they are fantastic for cooking.
Cut the leaves from the stalks. Wash both leaves and stalks. Put on a pot of water and bring to a boil. Drop in the celery and boil for 2 minutes (a process called blanching). Chop the celery and put on a half sheet in the refrigerator overnight to dehumidify it a bit. Put in freezer bags by itself, or with blanched and chopped carrots and onions for a frozen mirrepoix mix. Remember to date the freezer bags!
I also keep the celery leaves, onion papers and carrot ends and bag them to toss in the freezer; when I bake a chicken I cover the carcass with water, add a bag of these ends, and simmer for an hour to make chicken stock.