UK: Fenland celery wins protected status from European commission

Fenland celery – only recently revived in Cambridgeshire – has earned the coveted protected geographical indication (PGI) status from the European commission under the European protected food names (PFN) scheme. The announcement follows a four-year application process and means the heritage celery variety now joins the ranks of Parma ham, champagne and Melton Mowbray pork pies, which already enjoy protected status under similar schemes.

Under the EU's protected food name scheme, which came into force in 1993, food or drink registered at European level will get legal protection against imitation throughout the union.

Grown in deep peat soils of the UK's Fenland area in parts of Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, Fenland celery is renowned for its distinctive nutty and bittersweet flavour, its tender, crisp and crunchy texture, and its pale green to white colour. The region's soil consistency is also vital for the traditional methods used to produce this heritage crop – also known as white celery because of its paler colour.

Traditionally a Victorian artisan crop grown from October to December for the Christmas market, Fenland celery has been revived by fresh produce experts G's Fresh, who have grown celery in the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire for more than 50 years.

Fenland celery is currently available in Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Its devotees include Delia Smith, who said: "Celery is as English as the stilton cheese. The older varieties of so-called 'dirty' celery from the flat black-earthed Fenlands of East Anglia have a short season – from October to January. If you're lucky enough to eat some, there is a lot of washing to do, but the flavour is exceptional, particularly after a light frost, when it's sweetest of all."

Anthony Gardiner, marketing director of G's Fresh, said: "We brought Fenland celery back into commercial production in 2000, but it's been difficult to convey to shoppers what makes it such a premium product. We hope that gaining PGI status will raise the profile of this heritage variety and draw attention both to what makes it so different and the special way it's grown."

The food minister, George Eustice, said: "Earning a protected food name for Fenland celery is a real boost for east of England growers. They will now be able to trade the product with an authenticity guarantee that sets it apart from its competitors."


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