Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Water Celery

Water Celery Oenanthe javanica (flamingo)
Like many rare vegetables this plant has many common names including: water parsley, Java waterdropwort, Japanese parsley, Chinese celery, rainbow water parsley, and a bunch of other names.

Water celery is a perennial vegetable that is under utilised and strangely uncommon considering how prolific and simple to grow it is.

I don't really remember how I first got the variegated form of water celery, I do remember that I had hoped to get the pure green one and was a little disappointed to get this prettier version as the green one is meant to grow in a very aggressive way and the variegated one is said to be more tame.

The variegated form of water celery sometimes known as 'flamingo' or 'rainbow water parsley', the edges of the leaves are white and sometimes pink. Like a lot of other plants the colour becomes a lot more vibrant and intense in cooler weather.

It grows extremely fast when the weather is warm, it is often used to clean water, is sometimes used to extract gold from water, and most importantly it is edible.  It can be grown in a floating raft to clean water in an aquaponics type arrangement.
Water celery growing in a bucket
 How to grow water celery
Water celery prefers a lot of moisture to grow, I usually grow it submerged in a bucket of soil with a few cm of water on top.  This plant should always have the leaves emerging from the water or it will rot as it is not an aquatic plant.  Most people seem to grow it in depths of 10cm to 15cm of water.  That being said some of my plant's runners have made their way into other pots of soil not even near water and are growing happily enough if they get reasonable water.
I didn't plant water celery here, it found its own way in using runners
Water celery found its way into this pot has survived here
I am told that it can survive temperatures as low as -30C but find that very difficult to believe.  It seems to die back a little when the frosts hit and there is ice on top of the water, but as soon as the weather warms up it takes off and grows well.  This plant can become invasive so take care if you plant at the edge of a pond.

Water celery, even the variegated flamingo form, is a productive and aggressive grower.  It grows long runners in an attempt to colonise as much suitable ground as possible.  I have read several studies which state that when grown on a floating raft type system it can be used to remove phosphates, nitrates and various other forms of pollution (apparently including gold) from water. 

Considering that water celery loves moisture, and it is reasonably simple to remove, even if it does become a weed it should not stray too far from damp ground and should be reasonably simple to pull or dig out.  Guinea pigs and chickens seem to like it so if you ever had a patch that got out of control if you move animals onto that ground they should eat it out pretty fast.

This plant can and does flower and will set viable seed.  I lost all of my seeds so do not know if they will be variegated or if a percentage will be green. I am told that it will grow to 60cm tall but mine never reach half of that.
Water Celery and Vietnamese Coriander growing in buckets
Water Celery Flowering
What does water celery taste like
Not surprisingly, water celery tastes very similar to celery, and a bit like parsley.  We don't tend to eat much of it as I am not too fond of celery.  When fresh the celery taste and smell is strong, this decreases with cooking time.

Water celery can be eaten raw or cooked.  If you plant to eat it raw please be careful that it does not have any water snails on it.  Water snails can carry a host of different parasites which are bad for people.  Cooking, even briefly, can kill the parasites and make this plant completely safe.
Water Celery sending out runners
Where to buy water celery in Australia
Variegated water celery is sometimes seen in nurseries and for sale by specialist water nurseries and pond supply companies.  It is difficult to find and is normally very expensive for some reason.  I sell water celery, it is listed on my for sale page along with some other perennial vegetables.
Water celery plants ready for sale
Water celery is pretty in the right light

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