I’d like to conclude my celery trilogy by looking at the ngram for celery (the first two parts of the trilogy were about celery on restaurant menus and celery vases). Ngrams show the popularity of a word or phrase throughout time and are especially useful for slang, grammar, and spelling preferences (like ketchup and catsup). An ngram is a blunt tool, of course, since it’s not possible to limit the search to books with a certain subject matter (like cookbooks).
The chart below is the ngram for celery. There are three notable features: a significant rise between 1900 and 1920, a drop between 1940 and the mid-1960s, and another significant rise from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. The first rise was probably related to authors capitalizing on the popularity of celery in that era, both for eating and growing (at home and commercially). The mid-century decline was likely connected to the post-war interest in processed food and convenience, a place where celery does not fit (except perhaps in canned cream of celery soup). I’d guess that the renewed interest in healthy eating in the 60s and 70s led to celery’s change of fortune (hippies, back to the land, clean eating, etc.). To get the real answers would take a lot more research.
Burquest and Stockbridge Company employees loading celery crates onto trucks near Sarasota, Florida on Flickr Commons. No known copyright restrictions.
Cover of Celery for Profit: An Exposé of Modern Methods in Celery Growing (1893), original from the University of Minnesota. No known copyright restrictions.