Perennial Korean Celery
Origin: Ulleongdo Island, South Korea
Improvement Status: Cultivated wild material
Seeds per packet: ~40
Germination tested: Rare botanical sample - not germination tested
Also known as seombadi, wild celery, or Korean pig plant, Dystaenia is an exciting perennial plant that has been traveling under the radar for a few decades but is poised to become more popular (it has thus far spread mainly in Maine and New England through the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association). It has a stronger flavor than celery, but not as strong as lovage. Makes a great addition to soups. It is very nutritious and incredibly cold hardy. As one of its names implies, it has value as a forage plant for animals.
The plant was originally collected on Ulleungdo Island, off the coast of South Korea, in 1953 by the famous University of New Hampshire plant breeder Dr. Elwyn Meader. Professor Meader is one of the most important figures in the world of plant breeding from the 20th century. He was a generalist who worked with a huge range of species, and his developments include the 'Royalty Purple Pod' green bean, 'Golden Midget' watermelon, 'Prestige' raspberry, 'Sweet Chocolate' pepper, 'Applegreen' eggplant, 'Meader Male' hardy kiwi, 'Reliance' peach, and 'Mericrest' nectarine, among dozens of others. Meader was a deeply religious Quaker, and he was firmly opposed to patenting plant varieties. He also refused to take royalities for his creations, and instead gave them away "as payment for [his] space on the planet." Of his years at UNH, he said "I was working for the taxpayers and the results of my work belonged to them."
Our seed was produced by Eric Toensmeier of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the noted author of books including Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, Edible Forest Gardens, and The Carbon Farming Solution. We're very honored to be offering seeds this year for four perennial edibles from Eric's personal collection. It was a 2013 lecture by Eric on perennial industrial crops and carbon farming that gave Nate the idea to start EFN.
GROWING TIPS: Seeds should be surface sown and kept moist until germination. You could try direct seeding, but we recommend starting in flats. They prefer cool weather, but will stand up to summer heat once they get going. Can tolerate some shade.
(Photo courtesy flickr user Peganum, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike2.0 license)