Agri-Stats: Celery

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Shameful Public Service Announcement: Don’t forget that celery is great for dressing and other traditional holiday dishes: Hot wings and Bloody Marys!

In 2017, there were about 11,597 acres of celery produced in the Salinas Valley with a gross revenue of about $173,599,000.


History: 

  • The Pascal variety of celery, the variety we are most familiar with today, was first cultivated in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dutch immigrants were largely responsible for developing the plant into what it is today. Lots of cool facts attached. Kalamazoo MI Genealogy and Local History website. 
  • Burton Anderson shares these factoids about Celery: 
    • Celery is a biennial plant, known as Apium gravenolens L.
    • It is thought to be native to Europe where the wild form is found in low, marshy areas.
    • During the 15th century, it was considered poisonous.
    • Celery was first used for medicinal purposes in the middle ages 
    • In the 17th century, The wild form was improved beginning 
    • 1623 Was first cultivated for food in France.
    • By 1726  Was used in England to flavor soups.
    • During Victorian Times, it was considered to be a balm for nerves.
    • Celery is difficult and expensive to grow. It requires intensive inputs,  a lot of hand labor, and a very narrow set of soil/weather conditions found on the Central Coast of California and in only a few other places around the globe (Anderson)

  • American Japanese farmers in the Salinas Valley were largely responsible for celery as we know it today.
  • 1925 It was first grown in 1925 in the Salinas Valley on the Tavernetti Ranch by a joint partnership between Tavernetti and Frank Hirozawa.
  • In 1925 another Japanese grower, Saburo “Sam” Kitamura, grew 10 acres of yellow (Golden Blanching) celery. He started growing celery again in 1932 (after taking a hiatus as a car salesman that was cut short by the depression). He “sold” the wholesale market to buy his green “Pascal” variety and by 1933, he only grew one acre of the yellow variety. He invented a crude, mechanical celery transplanter built on a sled which was continuously improved upon.
  • Beginning in the late 1920s The Ichikawa brothers grew celery and were successful enough that they formed the Salinas Celery Distributors around 1930.
  • In the 1930s Ralph Meyers initiated shipping celery by air to the East Coast and this was perhaps the first use of air transport for vegetables.
  • Disease control is critical. No less than 6 diseases affect a celery crop. One disease is Western celery mosaic. The only method for containing this disease is a celery-free period in the month of January. No plants or residue may be above ground during the month of January in Monterey, San Benito or Santa Cruz Counties.

Today:

  • March is National Celery Month.
  • Production:
    • End-products that need additional processing such as celery stalks go to the processor. 
  • Production Stats:
    • 2010 crop
      • $380,974,000 celery gross revenues
      • 26,000 acres in the Salinas Valley
      • 95% of all celery grown in the U.S. is grown in the Salinas Valley
    • 2013 crop
      • ~$458,000,000 total gross revenue
  • According to EatHealtyLiveFit, the benefits of celery are considered to be:
    • Anti-Cancer
    • Calms nerves
    • Aids digestion
    • Relieves arthritis
    • Anti-inflammatory
    • Assist with migraines
    • Lowers blood pressure
    • Maintains healthy brain
    • Rids kidney & gallstones
    • Prevents calcium deposits 

Preparation: 

How do you get rid of celery “strings”? You snap the celery stalk just below the leaves and pull the snapped piece downward toward the roots. 


Quips: 

  • Where did the celery invest its money? In the stalk market.
  • Why did the gardener quit? Because his celery wasn’t high enough.

Books and References

Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley, A History of America’s Salad Bowl. Monterey Historical Society. 2000.

10 Health Benefits of Celery. EatHealthyLiveFit.com.

Kalamazoo County, MI., Genealogy & Local History. Celery Cultivation History. http://www.migenweb.org/kalamazoo/celery.htm#Celery%20in%20Kalamazoo

Monterey County 2017 Crop Report. Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=65737