Coming from the same family as parsley and carrots, celery packs a punch when it comes to the nutrition department.
Not only does it have a good amount of soluble and insoluble fiber but also has a whole host of vitamins and minerals.
There’s a long list of reasons why you’ll want it in your garden, but you will have to learn how to grow and when to harvest celery first.
When to harvest celery? Depending on the variety, expect harvest anytime from 85 to 120 days after transplanting. By this time, the stalks should be ready to use and are around six inches long or longer from the soil to the leaves.
How Do You Know When Your Celery Is Ready to Harvest?
Celery likes the cool weather and will take about 16 weeks to mature and be ready for harvest.
As you can imagine, this is a rather long growing season, so the majority of home gardeners start celery seeds indoors.
Given the right growing conditions, you will only need to wait three months after transplanting, and your celery will be ready to pick.
Roughly speaking, this is around four months after starting the seeds.
Another sign that they are ready for picking is when outdoor temperatures are near 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time to harvest them is when the air is still humid, and the weather is still cold. This way, you will get the right crispiness and flavor.
As mentioned, the easiest way to tell your celery is ready is by measuring the stalks.
When the first node is six inches from the bottom of the stalk, then you can start picking celery.
You can also measure the plant across to check if they have reached their full size.
Generally speaking, you will want your celery plants to be three inches wide during picking.
If you want to harvest the entire plant, wait until the stalks are compact and a little difficult to separate.
On the other hand, if there are still spaces in between, it would be best to harvest individual stalks instead.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Celery?
If you plant celery in early spring between May and June, they will be ready to harvest come summer all the way through fall before the first frost.
They will survive mild frosts, but not so much when it becomes too cold.
In areas where the spring gets warm, you can plant them in mid to late summer from September to October to get a late fall or early winter harvest.
What if you failed to harvest them on time? Will they still be good enough to eat?
Celery has a high water content, which means they need lots of water to grow too.
Even so, you will want to harvest celery before they become fully mature to get the flavor and texture you want.
As mentioned, you should start picking the first stalks three months after transplanting.
You can wait four to five months to harvest them, but you wouldn’t want to wait longer than that.
The thing is that celery will become tougher the longer the stalks get.
At the same time, though, they will also become more nutritious. Therefore, it really is a matter of preference.
Keep in mind that if outdoor temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your celery will start to turn tough, but they’d still be edible.
For the best results, start picking celery before the weather becomes too hot. Otherwise, you will end up with dry and bitter stalks.
If you want to harvest celery seeds, you can leave the plants in the ground until the end of the growing season.
How to Harvest Celery?
Are you absolutely sure your celery stalks are the right size for picking? If so, follow the steps below to do it the right way:
Step 1: Prepare your tools.
When harvesting celery, you will want to use a sharp knife instead of a pair of garden scissors, which could damage the plant.
Better yet, use a serrated knife to get a smooth, clean-cut.
Step 2: Decide which stalks to pick.
Pick the longest outer stalks first, which are the most mature of the bunch.
Then, wait for the inner stalks to grow before harvesting them too.
The stalks outside the plant are the most nutritious and are ready to be used for cooking.
You can blanch the stalks first if you find the flavor too strong for your liking.
On the other hand, if you like eating raw celery, pick the more tender stalks near the center.
Leaving the center of the stalks to mature throughout the growing season means you’ll get celery seeds at the end of the season.
Step 2: If you don’t need the entire plant, cut off only the top part.
To do this, hold the stalk with one hand and use your other hand to cut off the top part.
Afterward, make sure you clean the knife to avoid bacteria from spreading.
Keep in mind that harvesting individual stalks instead of the whole plant means you’ll have a steady supply of celery over a longer period.
If you plan on leaving them in the ground longer, make sure you build up a good amount of soil around the plants to maintain an ideal temperature.
Step 3: Cut the bottom of the stalks if you want the whole plant.
Instead of picking individual stalks, you can also opt to harvest the whole plant.
Do this by cutting the plant just below the soil line. Make a horizontal cut as much as possible to avoid cutting off the stalks.
Step 4: Pull out each celery plant after two years.
As a biennial plant, you can only harvest celery for two years. After this, they won’t grow back, and you’ll have to dig them out of the soil.
This is when you can harvest the celery seeds that will fall from the stalks to plant once the growing season comes.
Step 5: Store in the fridge.
Place newly harvested celery in a plastic bag before storing them in the fridge.
You can keep them in storage for up to two weeks with no problems. And if you remove the leaves, you can expect them to last longer.
Use the leaves as soon as possible because they get mushy rather quickly.
Make sure you leave one end of the plastic bag open before tossing it in your fridge’s crisper drawer.
Use aluminum foil if you prefer.
Step 6: Blanch and freeze for up to 12 months.
For even longer storage, you can freeze the stalks by cutting them into 1/2-inch pieces and keeping them in freezer-grade plastic bags.
Blanch celery before deep freezing to keep them up to a year.
To do this, simply place the cut-up pieces in boiling water for one minute. Then, remove and put them in an ice bath immediately after.
Drain the water and allow the celery pieces to dry completely before putting them in the freezer.
Should You Wash Celery After Harvesting?
Like the majority of veggies, we don’t recommend washing celery until such time you’re ready to use them.
Washing celery before storing will introduce extra moisture to the plant, which may result in it spoiling faster.
In fact, you should discard any stalk with signs of rotting to prevent it from ruining the others.
On the other hand, if you are planning on freezing them, you can go ahead and wash celery before blanching.
Rinse each stalk thoroughly to make sure you get rid of all the dirt.
You will also want to remove parts that are starting to wilt by cutting them off.
Can You Eat Celery Immediately After Harvesting?
In case you don’t know, store-bought celery tops the list when it comes to the “dirtiest” vegetables around.
It has no skin to protect it from pesticides and the stems cup inward, so washing until it’s totally clean can be tricky.
More than anything, this is the reason why many home gardeners like growing their own.
To wash celery, place it under cool running water and give each stalk a thorough rub.
Clean each stalk from top to bottom as well as the inside and outside. Pay close attention to the bottom, which is where all the dirt collects.
If you want to take it a step further, you can wash celery in a bowl of water mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda.
Leave the stalks to soak for one or two minutes before scrubbing and rinsing them under running water.
Growing celery is not as easy as growing other crops, but you can guarantee that it will be worth it.
You will probably end up with smaller stalks than what you would get from a grocery store, but that’s just because yours will not be laden with pesticides.
As such, you won’t have to worry about consuming celery every day—either by adding it to your green juice or dipping it in peanut butter for a healthy snack.