A summer salad staple, celery more or less disappears from our plates once the nights draw in and we turn to hearty, warming dishes. But Fenland celery, a heritage Victorian crop, recently revived, is changing all that. Likened to British asparagus for its blink-and-you-miss-it short season, Fenland celery is around for 8 short weeks from mid-October through to the end of the year.
A hugely popular feature of the Victorian Christmas dinner, Fenland celery was a prized crop. Grown in the Cambridgeshire Fens, the celery was “earthed up” under the rich, black soil to protect it from the winter frosts and prolong its season. This time and labour intensive growing method eventually became too expensive, and Fenland celery disappeared from our plates, consigned to history.
Until, that is, one celery grower, with a great family history of growing the variety, decided that the time had come to bring it back. Its reintroduction received a welcome boost a couple of years ago when it was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status by the EU under its Protected Food Names scheme, putting it in an elite group of produce recognised for its unique heritage and geography.
Grown and harvested in the traditional manner by G’s Fresh salad growers, Fenland celery is immediately recognisable for its pale colouring, which is down to the celery sticks being blanched by the soil. This blanching also improves the flavour, which is distinctly sweeter and nuttier than mainstream celery.
Here, we’ve compiled 5 recipes that showcase how celery can be used to add a special something to a host of tasty seasonal dishes. From a hearty hotpot and warming pasties through to a show-stopping Christmas turkey dish, we have the season covered.
Boozy Sausage, Fenland Celery and Apple Hotpot with Cider
One pot comfort food at its best. This delicious casserole uses a trio of the best of British regional produce; Newmarket sausages, Fenland Celery and Bramley apples – all of which have been recognised for their quality and heritage by Europe’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) scheme. A good slosh of cider along with fresh sage bring this fantastic winter warmer together.
Stilton Cheese and Fenland Celery Pasties
Flaky pastry encases a delectable filling of potato, Stilton cheese and diced Fenland celery, these pasties make for a perfect midweek family supper, as well as being wonderful packed up and eaten ‘al fresco’ as a Bonfire Night warmer. Suitable for freezing.
Martin Blunos’ Braised Fenland Celery with Celery & Hazelnut Pesto
A modern take on a classic braised celery dish. A sophisticated side dish that pairs brilliantly with roast chicken but will hold its own on the dinner table alongside a any roast. This recipe makes good use of the celery leaves too, which are too-often discarded.
Lucas Hollweg’s Fenland Celery, Chicken and Ginger Broth
A simple, bright-flavoured soup for when you want something comforting yet uplifting. It’s vaguely Southeast Asian in a non-specific way. The ribbons of celery retain their flavour and crunch, even when cooked.
Roast Turkey Fillet with Fenland Celery, Walnut and Sausage Stuffing
An elegant recipe that is surprisingly simple to prepare. Perfect for an informal meal with family and friends – or as a special celebratory dish throughout the festive period. British turkey fillets are stuffed with sausage meat, Fenland celery and walnut, before being wrapped with streaky bacon. Serve with all the trimmings.
Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.