Fenland celery has become the first English vegetable to earn Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Commission, joining an exclusive club of quality British food products. To receive PGI status, an entire product must be traditionally and at least partially produced within a specific region to acquire qualities unique to the outputs of that region. In this instance, Fenland Celery gets its unique taste and texture from both the traditional production methods and the deep peaty Fenland soil it is grown in.
In Victorian times, celery was specially grown in the Fens for Christmas market and was extremely popular. Recently revived by G’s Fresh who have grown celery in the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire for over 50 years. Dwarf White (developed over 100 years ago) is the main variety grown today. It produces shorter stems and more leaves – often overlooked but full of flavour and great in soups, stews or even as a garnish.
Fenland celery is grown in wide rows with deep trenches. This allows the soil to be banked up around the celery as it grows. This ‘earthing up’ process keeps the celery warm and protected from frost as it battles to grow through the winter months. Covering up the celery with soil also blanches it giving the sticks a paler colour and is why it has become known as ‘white’ celery.
Immersing most of the celery in the rich Fenland soil as it grows gives it a unique ‘nutty-sweet’ flavour and a less stringy texture, whilst still delivering celery’s famous crisp crunch. The growing method also allows more of the root to be kept; an exceptionally flavoursome section of the plant that can often go to waste.