Suddenly celery is completely in the clouds.

Anthony William, the & # 39; medical medium & # 39; that talks to spirits, has inspired mass & # 39; s to drink large glasses of straight celery juice on an empty stomach every day, hoping to cure multiple ailments. This may sound like a goofy sitcom plot, but the wholesale price of celery has increased tenfold in the past year and supermarkets are sometimes sold out. The most everyday vegetable has become an unlikely star.

Cynthia Yedinak, a 32-year-old & # 39; integrative nutrition coach & # 39; who recently purchased celery at the Hollywood farmer's market last Sunday described the benefits she received when drinking the juice. "I'm getting ready to leave, with a clearer head, and a better memory, clearer skin and no bloating," she said.

The history of celery is full of such metamorphoses, popping and bizarre claims, some surprisingly local. It was claimed that celery cleanses blood, soothes nerves and relieves stomach disorders, and nostrils of celery multiply, starting in 1868 with a tonic that is still popular today as Dr. Brown & # 39; s Cell-Ray soda. In the 1880s Colonel M.K. Paine earned millions from his Celery Compound, including cocaine, and promised to heal everything from scrofula to piles. In 1903 Dr. Price a celery flavor cereal, Tryabita, and a celery flavor gum, Tryachewa – both, not surprisingly, flops.

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Broad side for Paine & # 39; s celery dust in 1883. Cocaine was one of the ingredients, and the substance would cure a wide range of ailments, from scrofula to & # 39; female weakness & # 39 ;.

(David Karp)

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Los Angeles was the country's most important agricultural county, celery was the largest vegetable growing area and Venice was the most important growing area. Yet the story of the glory years of celery has remained untold.

Venice Belle celery label printed for Venice Celery distributors in 1939? David Karp 5/2/2019

Venice Belle celery label printed for Venice Celery Distributors in 1939.

(David Karp)

Celery is an extreme example of the transformation of plants by humans. Related to carrots, parsley, parsnip and dill, celery grows wild in moist, salty soils in Europe and West Asia. It started as a bitter, semi-poisonous weed with thin, hollow stems (botanical leaf stalks), and was used by the ancients for decoration, for medical properties and as a spice.

In the 1930s and 1940s, when Los Angeles was the country's most important agricultural county, celery was the largest vegetable

Celery was rare in the United States at the beginning of the 19th century because it was cultivated in trenches – blanched or covered with a cloth to prevent photosynthesis and keep the light of color, as is still the case today for endive. This process was difficult and expensive, so celery was a luxury, and until the end of the century it was exhibited on the dining tables of the rich in ornate celery vases.

The huge celery tree came in the 1880s and 1890s with the arrival of "self-blanching" varieties, denser planting, and the use of planks to shade the stems. A dozen books about the & # 39; New Selder Culture & # 39; appeared, cultivation grew and celery became readily available at reasonable prices.

1891 – Celery Week begins in California

In California, celery began in Westminster in 1891, where newly drained marshes provided fertile and easily cultivated soil. The cultivation soon spread to Chula Vista and El Monte.

In early 1910, when farmland in the West Adams district was developed for housing, Japanese immigrants began to migrate to the Venice area to grow celery. This area – from Venice Boulevard to Jefferson Boulevard, from Overland Avenue to the ocean – soon led the Southland into celery production. Gardena and Compton also became important districts.

The Venice Celery Farmers Assn., Founded in 1921, had an office close to where Gold’s Gym is today, and Venice Celery Distributors shipped the land by rail from a warehouse on San Pedro Street in the center. The Venice Belle Celery labels from the late 1930s show a beautiful celluloid goddess of celery.

A field of summer celery in the Venice Celery District after paper blanching. Dated April

A field with summer celery in the Venice Celery District after applying blanched paper, on a photo of April 12, 1927.

(Los Angeles Public Library)

Celery acreage in Los Angeles fluctuated considerably due to illness and competitive pressure, with a peak of 3,105 in 1933. In the early years, growers used plates and soil to produce white or gold celery, but the old varieties suitable for this, White Plume and Golden Self Blanching was very susceptible to diseases. In the 1930s, growers switched to varieties from Giant Pascal, such as Tall Utah, which were more resistant, productive and well preserved. This "Pascal celery" was also cheaper to grow because it produced high-quality green stems without blanching, similar to what we eat today, and by 1940, five-sixths of the Los Angeles harvest was green.

1942 – The cultivation of celery in California slows down

The cultivation of celery flourished until the spring of 1942, when Japanese Americans on the west coast were forced to enter internment camps.

"When we were ordered to be interned, the celery crops were ready to harvest, but I don't know by whom or how they were harvested and sold," recalls Ray Uyemori, 88, whose grandfather and father grew celery near Olympic Boulevard and Centinela Avenue.

American Girl celery label printed for California Vegetable Union or Los Angeles in 1940? David Kar

American Girl celery label printed for California Vegetable Union or Los Angeles in 1940.

(David Karp)

In 1945, the family was able to return and resume growing celery, although part of their land was taken to a Douglas Aircraft warehouse during the war.

The cultivation of celery in Los Angeles remained stable until 1951, gradually declining for the remainder of the decade and declining as the houses replaced the farms. The blanching completely stopped. Growers moved to the provinces of Orange and Ventura, and in 1969 only 12 hectares of celery remained in L.A.

Today California still grows most of the country's celery

Today California grows around 28,000 hectares of celery and accounts for 80% of the supply in the United States; Mexico, Arizona, Michigan and Florida produce the rest. The main growing areas in California are cool coastal districts: Salinas and Santa Maria, where the season is mid-June to early November, and Ventura County, which picks from November to mid-July.

The celery harvest resembles ballet with machetes. Recently, on a cool, cloudy morning at Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, the uniform, densely packed celery plants – 44,000 per acre – spread to the horizon like a knee-long forest, waving a herbaceous aroma, subtle but powerful. Skilfully each picker quickly used the tip of his razor-sharp celery knife to cut a plant from the ground by the root; looked at it to make sure it hadn't started to sow; exactly the remaining root and the leaves chopped off, using the blade's side blade; and laid the trimmed stalk on the ground in a row. A packer quickly picked it up, immediately assessed its size and put it in the accompanying box, carried on a giant cart called the hump, pushed by hand.

Pack freshly harvested celery in the field at Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard 30-4-2019? David

At the end of April, freshly harvested celery packed in the field at Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard.

(David Karp / For The Times)

Co-owner Scott Deardorff, 56, investigated the action with mixed satisfaction and fear. Due to an atypically cold winter, many of the plants were & # 39; sowing machines & # 39; they were screwed and thrown away. The pressure was to fill in orders because the price for a box of £ 57 was an unprecedented $ 60 to $ 75. This was a year earlier from $ 6 to $ 8, so low that growers reduced the number of plantations.

The harvest ends abruptly on July 14, because from July 15 to August 14, growers are prohibited from growing celery in Ventura County as part of a state-mandated "host-free period" that breaks the transmission of the celery mosaic virus. During that time, the provincial agricultural commissioner's office also hires students to eradicate wild celery from parks and ditches, said Ellen Kragh, deputy agricultural commissioner.

There is no such restriction in Santa Barbara County, which supplies much of the celery that is sold at Los Angeles farmers' markets. Farmers market celery is usually fresher and therefore more aromatic than stems bought in store, but can be more variable in quality. The best artisan growers, such as Finley Farms and The Garden of … .., produce celery that is small but rich in taste, starting in the summer or early fall. In less expert hands, celery exposed to frost can be spicy, with a white, dry center; heat and lack of water or over-maturity can cause bitterness; and irrigation with salt groundwater can cause excessive saltiness.

In the cooler months, farmers' markets are a good source of celeriac, or celeriac, which is produced by plants of the same species (Apium graveolens) as regular celery, but a different type in which the base of the stem and the upper root are greatly enlarged. Chinese celery can be found there and on Asian markets, which is domesticated separately and differs from celery grown in Europe and the United States; it has hollow, lean, stalk-like stems, with a more intense taste, and is used in soups and stews.

Regular celery usually comes from a narrow genetic base, from Giant Pascal, a French variety discovered in 1884, with a blacksmith's celeriac for disease resistance. The main varieties grown in California, such as Mission, Command, Sonora and Conquistador, are so similar that they are rarely sold by name.

Only a few farms in California produce heritage or unusual celery. Martin & # 39; s Farm in Salinas is growing Giant Red, an heirloom that looks like rhubarb, and Dorato Gigante, a yellowish-green variety from Italy. "They have a profound, intense taste that is only indicated with the current form of celery," said farmer-owner Martin Bournhonesque.

Drawing of pink celery in how you can cultivate and preserve celery, by Theophilus Roessle, publi

Drawing of pink celery in "How to cultivate and preserve celery," by Theophilus Roessle, published in 1860.

(David Karp)

Aaron Choi from Girl & Dug Farm in San Marcos grows white and Chinese pink celery grown in the greenhouse, which he cuts when the stems are 4 to 5 centimeters long – "just small enough to serve as functional garnish," he said.

Choi, who sells to restaurants such as Rustic Canyon and Nightshade, has tried to blanch celery. "The whole stem becomes noticeably more tender, slightly less fibrous, milder and sweeter," he said.

While these few pursue bygone art, millions of fiery converts are pressing celery and the new book about celery from the medical medium is already being touted as a bestseller.

Recent scientific articles reviewed by colleagues claim that celery is rich in minerals and vitamins; is a strong antioxidant and can eliminate free radicals; can improve hypertension and protect against cardiovascular disease; can accelerate bone healing; and can protect against oxidative brain damage.

How celery became the unlikely star of the aisle »

But almost every fruit and vegetable, when studied, appears to have beneficial effects, and nutritionists generally advise against making a certain food from a fetish.

From the point of view of nutrition and phytochemistry, there is nothing "superior" to celery, said Dr. Zhaoping Li, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA. The disadvantage of consuming large amounts of celery juice, she added, would be missing & # 39; nutrients from other vegetables & # 39 ;.

Whatever the health effects, and even if the current craze diminishes, the colorful history and local origin of celery should contribute to the pleasure of its consumption.

food@latimes.com

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