Cutting celery is a great culinary herb to have in your garden. Unlike stalk celery from a grocery store, cutting celery is full of flavor, reminiscent of black pepper. Cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum) looks more like parsley than stalk celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce). This foot-tall, bushy plant has short, hollow stems and green, finely serrated leaves about one-inch wide. Cutting celery is a very old herb, more popular in European and Asian countries. It is not difficult to grow but probably difficult to find as a plant here in the Washington DC area. I started my original plants from seed under lights, several weeks before the last frost in the spring. Mine are a variety called Amsterdam, from Renee’s Garden. I transplanted the seedlings outside in May, in a very moist area. This particular area is a depression in the vegetable bed where rain water collects. Celery needs a constant supply of moisture and a few shots of nitrogen in the summer. Mine are in an area that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.
Cutting celery is cold hardy and survives our mild winters very well. A member of the carrot family, this biennial plant will have lush foliage in the first year (best for eating) and will flower, set seed, and die in the second year. I have several plants so that each year I can harvest the first year’s growth. For the plants that are flowering and setting seed, I wait until the seeds are ripe and just crumble the seed heads in the same area in order to have new plants.
Once you start cooking with cutting celery, you realize its value as a kitchen staple. I cut stems as I need them and chop leaves and stems together simply because it is easiest. I add the mix to stir fry dishes, soups, stews, egg dishes and potato recipes toward the end of the cooking period. Sometimes I add about a spoonful to a green salad to add a peppery flavor in small amounts. I also sauté chopped celery with diced green pepper and tomato to add to fish or chicken. The leaves can be used as a garnish. I like to placing a bunch under an entrée such as a whole roasted chicken on a platter.
Try growing cutting celery in your garden from seed. If you do not have indoor lights, just sow the seeds in your garden bed after Mother’s Day when frost has passed. Once you use cutting celery in the kitchen you will find you can’t have a garden without it.
I”ve been growing cutting celery for several years now. I let it go to seed so I always have a supply of it here in Pittsburgh, Pa. I also cut and dry it and store it in glass jars. So when you need celery for a recipe to only find out that you have none in the refrigerator, this is a great substitute with wonderful flavor. And while people always say lovage has a celery flavor, i find that it has a bitter aftertaste unlike cutting celery.