“Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle” – Black Elk
Going round in circles may be considered futile activity in what is still the age of straight lines and boxes. Yet even now, some cycles of nature are widely observed and celebrated, notably in the way calendar dates mark the spinning of the years.
For growers, every day is an anniversary, a festival, a saints day. The seasonal tasks are ritualistically performed once again. And every plant has its time to shine. In the last few weeks we’ve had Strawberry Fayre, Plant Sale Eve, The Feast of Spring Garlic, Lettuce Day, and this week came Saint Celery’s.
A controversial beatification for a plant commonly called the “devil’s vegetable”. Why this is the case we can but speculate: It’s an ingredient strongly loved and hated in equal measure, like Marmite, or celery’s close cousins fennel, coriander and caraway. In fact, all the aforementioned are delicious except for caraway, which is genuinely and profoundly disgusting, but some people just won’t be told. All are in the carrot family (well, perhaps not Marmite), which also boasts notoriously poisonous specimens including hemlock water dropwort, a ringer for wild celery.
A further explanation is that, as foodstuffs go, celery is up there with peanuts in the allergen stakes, and for people with celery allergy, exposure can be fatal. However, I suspect a hint of Roman Catholic repression behind its demonisation, perhaps linked to the notion that celery is our only native aphrodisiac.
Is this notion, I wonder, in some way connected to the “Celery Song”, a sexually explicit chant sung by Chelsea fans in the 1980s, with accompanying brandished stalks, and which still occasionally breaks out in football grounds today? my feelings towards this particular anthem are ambivalent: it is invariably voiced in a sexist context, yet any hymn to a vegetable has to have something going for it.
There are areas of the Hawkwood site that have poor drainage, and are prone to water logging: the bottom dip in the Entrance Field in particular. Celery being, in origin, a bog plant, it was the ideal candidate for this spot, and last year the vigour displayed by the “Tall Utah” cultivar there was extraordinary. However, the rotation, like all cycles, revolves. This week Naomi, Ed, Keith and I set to tickling the new seedlings out, half way up the hill, in bone dry soil in the heat of this drought.
I can’t be the first gardener to note that the act of kneeling to plant out is akin to praying in more than just its physical resemblance. A prayer for a new Eden. And on this Saint Celery’s, a sacrifice to the rain clouds.