Fenland celery is a white winter celery that has become the gold standard of all celery varieties.
Grown right here in the UK within the Fens — a coastal plain in eastern England — it’s a crop with a strong heritage that dates back to Victorian times.
During that time, it was cultivated in the Fenlands and carted to London for sale in the Christmas markets. It was so popular at that time that it became a regular feature of many Londoner’s Christmas dinners.
And its first-class flavour is what got it there; a sweet, nutty taste with a crisp, clean texture.
The vegetable was revived only a decade ago and now holds a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the European Commission.
Why is it Grown in The Fens?
Fenland celery is grown exclusively in the Fens, which gives it a distinctive point of difference. The Fens are particularly fertile and represent around half of the grade 1 agricultural land in the UK.
The soil in the Fens is particularly rich, peaty and packed full of nutrients, with around 15-20% organic matter. This is all due to the fact that the Fens used to be underwater marshland for hundreds of years, before they were successfully drained and protected from flooding in the 19th Century.
How is Fenland Celery Grown?
The crop is grown in a very different manner to your everyday celery, with a very labour-intensive process throughout.
It’s planted in June in wide rows with deep trenches in between. As it grows, growers use of the process of ‘earthing up’ to protect and nurture the celery. This is where the rich soil is banked up around the celery to keep it warm and protected from the frost — a factor that could destroy the crop.
This ‘earthing up’ process actually blanches the celery sticks to a distinctive pale white colour, which is a handy way to recognise true Fenland celery.
Harvesting the crop gives you another way to identify Fenland celery too. It’s harvested by hand with the base of the plant cut to a point in the traditional manner.
When is Fenland Celery in Season?
Fenland celery is in season generally between October and December each year, and as always, the start and the end of the season shifts depending on the weather. But whenever it starts, the season usually lasts for just 8 short weeks — so order some as soon as you can.
If you want to see a little more about Fenland celery, take a look at this video: