Celery

Celery Photo by Rasbak on Wikimedia

Apium graveolens                                                                                            

Common Name: Wild Celery

Family: Apiaceae or Umbelliferae     

Known Hazards: If the plant is infected with the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. This is more likely to happen to Caucasians.

Habitat: Ditches, by rivers and in other damp locations, especially near the sea in salt marshes.

Range: Central and southern Europe, including Britain, to temperate areas of Africa and Asia.           

Physical Characteristics        

Apium graveolens is a BIENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in).

It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by flies, self. The plant is self-fertile.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.

Edible Uses                                                  

Edible Parts: Condiment;  Leaves;  Root;  Seed.

Leaves – raw or cooked. Mainly used as a flavouring in soups etc. They can be eaten raw but have a very strong flavour. They are toxic if consumed in large amounts.

Seed – a flavouring. Used in small quantities to flavour soups and stews. An essential oil from the seed is also used as a flavouring.

Root – cooked.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Aperient;  Carminative;  Diuretic;  Emmenagogue;  Galactogogue;  Nervine;  Stimulant;  Tonic.

Wild celery has a long history of medicinal and food use. it is an aromatic bitter tonic herb that reduces blood pressure, relieves indigestion, stimulates the uterus and is anti-inflammatory. The ripe seeds, herb and root are aperient, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, nervine, stimulant and tonic. Wild celery is said to be useful in cases of hysteria, promoting restfulness and sleep and diffusing through the system a mild sustaining influence.

The herb should not be prescribed for pregnant women. Seeds purchased for cultivation purposes are often dressed with a fungicide, they should not be used for medicinal purposes. The root is harvested in the autumn and can be used fresh or dried. The whole plant is harvested when fruiting and is usually liquidized to extract the juice. The seeds are harvested as they ripen and are dried for later use.

An essential oil obtained from the plant has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Some of its constituents have antispasmodic, sedative and anticonvulsant actions. It has been shown to be of value in treating high blood pressure. A homeopathic remedy is made from the herb. It is used in treating rheumatism and kidney complaints.

Celery Photo by Eric Hunt on Wikimedia Commons

Other Uses

The growing plant is an insect repellent, it repels the cabbage white butterfly so is a good companion for brassicas.

Cultivation                                                  

Prefers a rich moist soil in sun or semi-shade, but with some shade in the summer. It is tolerant of saline soils. The plants are fairly hardy, though they can be damaged by hard frosts. Wild celery is the parent of the cultivated celery (A. graveolens dulce) as well as celery leaf (A. graveolens secalinum) and celeriac (A. graveolens rapaceum). This entry only deals with the wild celery, the other plants are dealt with separately. A very aromatic plant, the aroma being most noticeable when the foliage is bruised. The growing plant is a good companion for leeks, tomatoes, French beans and brassicas.                                                                                      

Propagation                                                

Seed – sow spring or autumn in situ. If seed is in short supply it can be sown in a cold frame in spring. The seed can harbour certain diseases of celery, it is usually treated by seed companies before being sold but if you save your own seed you should make sure that only seed from healthy plants is used.

Author: L. on Plants for a Future.

References available from source website.