CULTIVATION, STORAGE & PACKAGING

Preharvest:
Celery is a cool season crop, sensitive to extremes in temperature, and can be challenging to grow. It is typically seeded 8 to 10 weeks before being transplanted in nutrient-rich soil (which should be tested for nematodes before insertion), with the most robust plants together for uniform harvests. For best results, transplants should have a few leaves and well developed roots. It is best to allow ample space between rows (6 to 7 inches apart) to encourage upward growth.

Once transplanted, celery should not be exposed to temperatures below 50°F for any extended period of time to prevent premature bolting. Row covers can be used to protect from frost. Celery prefers steady, continuous growth, should be trimmed, and requires consistent watering (in excess of 1 inch per week).

Postharvest:
To prevent decay a sharp blade and attention to minimizing abrasions and damage to cut-ends is recommended. Celery should be stacked and packed carefully after harvest to prevent injury. As it is highly perishable, celery should be cooled (forced air, hydrocooled, or vacuum cooled) immediately after harvest to between 32 and 36°F with high humidity.

Since celery is held and transported near freezing temperatures, freezing injury is occasionally found at receiving point, presenting with a flabby, water-soaked condition of both the leaves and stalks. Freezing injury may also cause circular sunken lesions on the stalk, which will soon become brown. It is important to note the location and stage of freezing injury, as the freezing injury may also have occurred in the field.

Like asparagus, celery continues to grow after harvest: extra horizontal space should be allowed in crates.

Grades:
Celery is divided into U.S. Extra No. 1, U.S. No. 1, and U.S. No. 2 grades.

High-quality celery will possess similar varietal characteristics and be well-developed, well-formed, well-trimmed, clean, and free from damage and disease. Defects include blackheart, blight, soft rot, brown stem, mold, wilt, or pithiness; stalks should be free from freezing or mechanical damage as well as cracks, scuffing, and insects. Stalks should be green unless specified as blanched.

References: Cornell University, New England Vegetable Management Guide, North Carolina State University Extension, USDA, Utah State University Extension.

GOOD ARRIVAL GUIDELINES

Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.

U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)
10-2 5
4
3
2
1
15-4
14-4
13-3
11-2
10-2
32

Canadian good arrival guidelines (unless otherwise noted) are broken down into five parts as follows: maximum percentage of defects, maximum percentage of permanent defects, maximum percentage for any single permanent defect, maximum percentage for any single condition defect, and maximum for decay. Canadian destination guidelines are 15-10-5-10-4.

References: DRC, PACA, USDA.

CELERY: WEEKLY MOVEMENT & PRICES, USA

Weekly Movements and Prices, USA

Source: Chart by Gallo Torrez Agricultural Price Trends (GTAPT), mgallo@markfinstrat.com, compiled from USDA data.

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