Celery is a common vegetable found frequently in American households. According to the USDA Plants Database, it is commercially grown in many areas of the United States, particularly the west coast, ranging from hardiness zone 5 through 10. Celery is commonly available in groceries and fresh markets. It has a crunchy texture, is somewhat juicy and has a mild and distinctly savory flavor.
Celery leaves are compound, with six to eight leaflets growing opposite each other along a thin stalk. The leaflets are finely divided, with margins that have multiple toothed lobes and are green in color. The stalk is yellow green to dark green and curved along its length with a gutter on one side of the stalk and ridges on the other side. The root is brown on the outside with dense, whitish flesh inside.
Celery plants grow from 18 to 24 inches in height. The root is a shallow tap root. The stalks are from 10 to 14 inches long, growing in tight, upright bundles from the base of the plant. The stems grow from the top of each stalk and are between four and eight inches long with the leaves.
The celery plant prefers fertile sandy soils and plenty of organic material. The soil should be well-draining. Celery is usually grown from seed in greenhouse conditions until they have three to four mature leaves and roots that are established before being planted. Seeds can be directly planted into the soil in areas with longer growing seasons. Transplants can be planted early in the spring in rows about two feet apart and about 12 inches apart along the row. Tight planting helps force the plants to grow tall rather than out. Proper irrigation, with up to two inches of water per week, is essential to good celery production.
Because celery is a slow-growing plant with a relatively small root system, it should be protected from competition with weeds. Aphids are the primary pest of celery and can be treated with insecticidal soaps or strong streams of water to dislodge the insects. Diseases are few, and include powdery mildew and black heart, a disorder that damages the center of the plant due to a calcium deficiency.
Celery is commonly used as a food item and garnish. It can be eaten raw, in salads or as flavoring in foods such as soups, stews and other cooked dishes. The leaves, stalks, root and seeds of the plant are all edible. Celery, especially its seeds, also has medicinal uses as a diuretic.