The Long Island Seed Project

Celery, Carrots, Fennel, Parsnip

This work including original photographs may be transmitted or stored in electronic form on any computer attached to the Internet or World Wide Web so long as credit is given to and is included in the copy. Individuals may make single copies for their own use. All other rights are reserved.


Apiaceae (The Parsley Family)



Genus: Apium

Celery is a Hardy/Half hardy biennial. Sow the tiny seed early indoors and transfer the plants out in spring. Slow growing at first.  They are tolerant of a light frost. They can be over-wintered with protection such as mulching or earth mounding or may be root cellared. They will produce small flowers in small umbellate clusters and copious seed which are easily gathered.  Celery is insect pollinated and so varieties of stalk and herb celeries will cross unless isolated.

Celery prefers moist, organic rich soils.  Here at Flanders Bay Farm we have grown many of the older varieties from Europe and have even managed to overwinter them in the field without much of a problem.  We don't pay particular attention to blanching and don't attempt to grow the tall and tender celery stalks that one finds in the supermarket;  instead, we leave them alone for the most part and harvest the leaves to either chop up into salads or add to soups (available fresh from the garden most of the year) and the celery seed that is a great flavor enhancer on it's own.

Celery aka stalk celery, blanching celery, self blanching celery (Apium graveolens)

We continue to work with a blend of modern and heirloom types from many sources to select for mild, sweet flavor and vigor under our cultural practices. Even if your cultural practices do not allow you to produce tall celery stalks, use your plants as a source of celery seed, aromatic leaves and minced stems for texture and flavor.

Genus: Daucus

<>Carrot (Daucus carota) Hardy biennial. Sow in the spring in the open ground. Tolerant of frosts. Roots can be harvested and root cellared for replanting and seed crops or left in the ground and mulched depending on climate. Insect pollinated. Easily crosses with wild carrot (D. carota) which will reduce root quality.

There are so many kinds of carrots: white ones, round ones, finger sized, stump rooted, red, orange, yellow and purple ones, very sweet and not so sweet. Those used in Europe for soup and livestock feed, those in Japan for pickling and then those that are great for fresh eating and snacking. If you are growing carrots for seed make sure that you start with a carrot that you really enjoy growing and which does well for you on your soil and in your climate.

Producing seed is a two year process. The first year concentrate on raising your crop for food. At the harvest, select a few of your very best roots and store over the winter at a temperature just above freezing. Depending on where you live that may mean back in the ground under a heavy mulch, in a damp cold cellar in sand or peat or in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator wrapped in a damp towel.
White carrots from a late fall planting overwintered in the root cellar

Plant the selected roots in early spring when the ground thaws. The carrots will produce Queen Annes Lace (wild carrot) type flowers in July and in late summer, an ample seed crop.

          Purple and White Flowers of Carrots put on a great garden show once wintered over.

 Many kinds of insect pollinators will visit the flowers, some are known to roam over large distances and may bring pollen from wild carrot which can introduce characteristics that you don't want into your seed crop. Make sure your garden fence isn't bordered by Queen Anne's Lace. Also carrot varieties will cross with one another with ease so unless you want to experiment with developing a new carrot variety, plant only one kind.

The plant family that carrot belongs to is Apiaceae. A characteristic of the group is the particular mass of tiny flowers that it produces know as an umbel. Note how the little flower stalks radiate out from the larger ones. When the seeds begin to form, the umbel will fold inward and it becomes a kind of protective home for the seeds until they turn brown and dry. Watch carefully so that you don't loose the seeds as they ripen or when near-ripe, you can pull the plants up by the root and cover the upper stalks with a loose paper bag, and lay the whole mass on their sides in a protected place like the garage until the seed heads are thoroughly dry. Cleaning small batches of seed will require rubbing the seed heads back and forth in your hands to free the seeds and using strainers or screens of a proper size.  Inspect the seed for tiny insects that might cause damage to the stored seed.

Saving carrot seed
Harvest carrots the first year for cream, yellow, shades of orange and purple roots in many forms.  The second year in the ground (if you prefer to let them winter over) and you will be rewarded with a great flowering bed of Queen Anne's Lace in White and Lavender shades.  You may want to embark on a breeding project to cross colorful carrots with very sweet early maturing snacking types (harvest in less than 60 days), you decide whether it would be best to harvest the carrots or enjoy the flowers. 

Genus: Foeniculum
Fennel is a hardy perennial which will produce seed the first season if seed is planted early.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) aka fenocchio, florence fennel, anise fennel

There has been some selection of bulb fennels in southern Europe where isolated regions raise their own favored selections.  We work with those kinds that have inflated leaf stem (petiole) bases sometimes called "bulbs" in the cooler weather of autumn.   They can be sliced and used raw or cooked as one might use carrot strips or celery.  Besides the "bulbs, the finely cut leaves can be used as herb fennel to flavor greek dishes, sauces, and soups.  Our fennel bed re-seeds easily providing year round garnish and seasoning.  We maintain the quality by rouging out inferior plants before they produce their umbel shaped flowers.


(Pastinaca sativa)

There are a number of carrot relatives which you can tell by the distinct umbel that forms it's inflorescence. Parsnip seed can be produced in the same manner as carrot seed. Producing your own seed allows you to have fresh seed which is important since parsnip seed tends to decline rapidly in viability. Like carrots, it's a two year process. Parsnips do not cross with carrots; however, nor Queen Anne's Lace so you'll have to worry about isolation for purity only if you are growing more than one variety or if all your neighbors are growing parsnips for seed.

Not likely you say? I decided to look for more than the usual two or three varieties of parsnip available in the U.S. by going to my British sources. To my amazement, parsnips must really be a big deal in England. It was easy to obtain a dozen different varieties from the Exhibition Size to tiny miniature parsnips. Hollow Crown, extended crown, wide or narrow, British growers know their parsnips. I can't understand why they're not more popular in the U.S. Harvested after frost, the roots can be sweet enough to eat them raw or in salads. I really like them oven roasted with potatoes, onions and chunks of winter squash. A great winter time feast.

Parsnip in flower

The yellowish flowers develop earlier than carrots in the second year and the umbel remains flat as the seed ripens instead of curling up. You'll see the ripe seeds out in the open where you can easily remove them for storage.

Seeds that decrease in viability quickly should be carefully stored. In general, when you are storing garden seeds, like Bob Dylan recommends, keep them in a cool, dry place. Cool, like a refrigerator or a cool basement; dry as sealing the perfectly dry seed in a closed jar on a dry day when the humidity is low. Try and maintain a constancy of temperature. By the way, when you are saving your own seed don't seal them for storage until the seed really is dry. Dry enough to shatter, dry enough to break. I will keep seeds that I process drying on screens or in open paper bags for weeks in a dry, controlled environment. During that drying time, day temperatures in the 80's and 90's only help the process, but humidity or moisture can ruin a batch of seed and sealing seed in a container when they have not dried enough can be disastrous for the seed's survival.



Last Modified:  November, 2007