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Celery is a Hardy/Half hardy biennial. Sow the tiny seed early indoors
and transfer the plants out in spring. Slow growing at first.
They are tolerant of a light frost. They can be over-wintered with
protection such as mulching or earth mounding or may be root cellared.
They will produce small flowers in small umbellate clusters and copious
seed which are easily gathered. Celery is insect pollinated and
so varieties of stalk and herb celeries will cross unless isolated.
Celery prefers moist, organic rich soils. Here at Flanders
Bay Farm we have grown many of the older varieties from Europe and have
even managed to overwinter them in the field without much of a
problem. We don't pay particular attention to blanching and don't
attempt to grow the tall and tender celery stalks that one finds in the
supermarket; instead, we leave them alone for the most part and
harvest the leaves to either chop up into salads or add to soups
(available fresh from the garden most of the year) and the celery seed
that is a great flavor enhancer on it's own.
We continue to work with a blend of
modern and heirloom types from many sources to select for mild, sweet
flavor and vigor under our cultural practices. Even if your cultural practices do not allow you to
produce tall celery stalks, use your plants as a source of celery seed,
aromatic leaves and minced stems for texture and flavor.
<>Carrot (Daucus carota) Hardy biennial. Sow in the spring in the
open ground. Tolerant of frosts. Roots can be harvested and root
cellared for replanting and seed crops or left in the ground and
mulched depending on climate. Insect pollinated. Easily crosses with
wild carrot (D. carota) which will reduce root quality.
There are so many kinds of carrots: white ones, round ones,
finger sized, stump rooted, red, orange, yellow and purple ones, very
sweet and not so sweet. Those used in Europe for soup and livestock
feed, those in Japan for pickling and then those that are great for
fresh eating and snacking. If you are growing carrots for seed make
sure that you start with a carrot that you really enjoy growing and
which does well for you on your soil and in your climate.
Producing seed is a two year process. The first year concentrate
on raising your crop for food. At the harvest, select a few of your
very best roots and store over the winter at a temperature just above
freezing. Depending on where you live that may mean back in the ground
under a heavy mulch, in a damp cold cellar in sand or peat or in the
vegetable bin of your refrigerator wrapped in a damp towel.
White carrots from a late fall planting overwintered in the root
Plant the selected roots in early spring when the ground thaws.
The carrots will produce Queen Annes Lace (wild carrot) type flowers in
July and in late summer, an ample seed crop.
White Flowers of Carrots put on a great garden show once wintered over.
Many kinds of insect pollinators will visit the flowers,
some are known to roam over large distances and may bring pollen from
wild carrot which can introduce characteristics that you don't want
into your seed crop. Make sure your garden fence isn't bordered by
Queen Anne's Lace. Also carrot varieties will cross with one another
with ease so unless you want to experiment with developing a new carrot
variety, plant only one kind.
The plant family that carrot belongs to is Apiaceae. A characteristic
of the group is the particular mass of tiny flowers that it produces
know as an umbel. Note how the little flower stalks radiate out from
the larger ones. When the seeds begin to form, the umbel will fold
inward and it becomes a kind of protective home for the seeds until
they turn brown and dry. Watch carefully so that you don't loose the
seeds as they ripen or when near-ripe, you can pull the plants up by
the root and cover the upper stalks with a loose paper bag, and lay the
whole mass on their sides in a protected place like the garage until
the seed heads are thoroughly dry. Cleaning small batches of seed will
require rubbing the seed heads back and forth in your hands to free the
seeds and using strainers or screens of a proper size. Inspect
the seed for tiny insects that might cause damage to the stored seed.
Saving carrot seed
Harvest carrots the first year for cream, yellow, shades of orange and purple roots in many forms. The second year in the ground (if you
prefer to let them winter over) and you will be rewarded with a great
flowering bed of Queen Anne's Lace in White and Lavender shades.
You may want to embark on a breeding project to cross colorful carrots
with very sweet early maturing snacking types (harvest in less than 60
days), you decide whether it would be best to harvest the carrots or
enjoy the flowers.
Fennel is a hardy perennial which will produce seed the first season if
seed is planted early.
There has been some selection
of bulb fennels in southern Europe where isolated regions raise their
own favored selections. We work with those kinds that have inflated leaf stem (petiole) bases sometimes called
"bulbs" in the cooler weather of autumn. They can be sliced
and used raw or cooked as one might use carrot strips or celery.
Besides the "bulbs, the finely cut leaves can be used as herb fennel to
flavor greek dishes, sauces, and soups. Our fennel bed re-seeds
easily providing year round garnish and seasoning. We maintain
the quality by rouging out inferior plants before they produce their
umbel shaped flowers.
There are a number of carrot relatives which you can tell by the
distinct umbel that forms it's inflorescence. Parsnip seed can be
produced in the same manner as carrot seed. Producing your own seed
allows you to have fresh seed which is important since parsnip seed
tends to decline rapidly in viability. Like carrots, it's a two year
process. Parsnips do not cross with carrots; however, nor Queen Anne's
Lace so you'll have to worry about isolation for purity only if you are
growing more than one variety or if all your neighbors are growing
parsnips for seed.
Not likely you say? I decided to look for more than the usual two or
three varieties of parsnip available in the U.S. by going to my British
sources. To my amazement, parsnips must really be a big deal in
England. It was easy to obtain a dozen different varieties from the
Exhibition Size to tiny miniature parsnips. Hollow Crown, extended
crown, wide or narrow, British growers know their parsnips. I can't
understand why they're not more popular in the U.S. Harvested after
frost, the roots can be sweet enough to eat them raw or in salads. I
really like them oven roasted with potatoes, onions and chunks of
winter squash. A great winter time feast.
Parsnip in flower
The yellowish flowers develop earlier than carrots in the second year
and the umbel remains flat as the seed ripens instead of curling up.
You'll see the ripe seeds out in the open where you can easily remove
them for storage.
Seeds that decrease in viability quickly should be carefully stored. In
general, when you are storing garden seeds, like Bob Dylan recommends,
keep them in a cool, dry place. Cool, like a refrigerator or a cool
basement; dry as sealing the perfectly dry seed in a closed jar on a
dry day when the humidity is low. Try and maintain a constancy of
temperature. By the way, when you are saving your own seed don't seal
them for storage until the seed really is dry. Dry enough to shatter,
dry enough to break. I will keep seeds that I process drying on screens
or in open paper bags for weeks in a dry, controlled environment.
During that drying time, day temperatures in the 80's and 90's only
help the process, but humidity or moisture can ruin a batch of seed and
sealing seed in a container when they have not dried enough can be
disastrous for the seed's survival.