When I was a child, we often drove past a General Foods factory where they made bouillon cubes. I still remember the smell of homemade soup cooking wafting through the car windows. This week, you will smell that same fragrance when you pick up your TFF box, before you even open it. The aroma is celery.
There is no perfect time to grow celery in Winters. It’s too darn hot in the summer, and too dang cold in the winter. Only the most inexperienced or crazy farmer in this area would plan on making any profit at all on the crop, which ideally prefers warm days and cool nights for many months in a row. Most of the state’s crop is grown in Ventura County.
And yet, off and on for almost 20 years we have attempted to grow just enough celery at Terra Firma to send you a head’s worth at Thanksgiving and sometimes another at the end of the year. Some years, it has succumbed to the heat when summer stretches late into fall. Other years, we’ve had a beautiful crop that is completely destroyed by a hard freeze just prior to harvest. We’ve given up growing it several times after losing it, only to try again a year or two later.
But when it grows well, celery is a lovely crop: tall, stately, and a joy to harvest, as it perfumes your clothes and hands as well as the air while you are cutting and packing it. It’s also a great vegetable for CSA boxes this time of year, the perfect addition to soups, stews and broths. We send you the whole plant, almost untrimmed, so you can see what it really looks like as well as taking advantage of the intensely flavored leaves to make the best vegetable stock you’ve ever tasted.
TFF celery tastes like CELERY. It is not watery and bland, nor is it tender. That’s because it has had a hard, hard life. When we planted it out from the greenhouse on August 1st it was 90 degrees at 8 a.m., and 105 by afternoon. The tiny plants went into shock for a month before finally recovering.
Then, shortly before Thanksgiving (the holiday we hoped to harvest it for), temperatures dropped into the high 20s for over a week. Just a few degrees lower and the plants would have melted down in the cold. Instead, they simply stopped growing. Two weeks of rain reinvigorated them, and by this morning they were finally ready to harvest.
It’s not a huge risk for us to put in a small amount of a challenging crop like celery — especially not compared to the satisfaction of actually seeing it through to harvest for your boxes. For me, it’s one of the favorite parts of my job. I hope you enjoy it too, and if you have kids, I hope the aroma of TFF’s celery will leave them with long-lasting memories of good food and time with family.