Image by Clay Irving
By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
Celery is a cool season crop that requires about 16 weeks of cool temperatures to mature. It is best to start celery indoors about 8 weeks before the last frost in the spring. When seedlings have 5 to 6 leaves, they can be set out.
If you live in an area with cool spring and summer weather, you can plant celery outdoors in early spring. Warmer regions can enjoy a fall crop of celery if planted in late summer. Sometimes you may find that your garden grown crop has some very bitter tasting celery stalks. If you wonder “why does my celery taste bitter,” continue reading to learn more about the reasons for pungent celery.
How to Keep Celery from Tasting Bitter
In order to determine what makes celery bitter, you may have to assess your growing conditions. Celery needs extraordinarily rich, moisture retentive soil that is slightly wet but drains well. Celery also likes a soil pH between 5.8 and 6.8. If you are unsure of your soil acidity, you can take a soil sample and amend as needed.
Heat is no friend to celery, which prefers cool temperatures between 60 degrees F. and 70 degrees F. Keep celery plants well watered during the growing season. Without adequate water, stalks will become stringy.
Provide at least one mid-season application of compost, as celery is a heavy feeder. With proper growing conditions, it is easy to avoid that bitter-tasting, pungent celery.
Other Reasons for Bitter Tasting Stalks
If you have provided all of the right growing conditions and are still asking yourself “why does my celery taste bitter,” it may be because you did not blanch the plants to protect the stalks from the sun.
Blanching involves covering the stalks with straw, soil or rolled up paper cylinders. Blanching promotes healthy celery and encourages the production of chlorophyll. Celery that has been blanched 10 to 14 days prior to harvest will have a sweet and pleasing taste. Without blanching, celery can very quickly becomes bitter tasting.