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 from 1860 to 2019. There are three notable features: a significant rise between 1900 and 1920, a drop between 1940 and the mid-1960s, a somewhat stagnant period to around 2000, and then a significant rise in the mid-2000s. 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 can’t think of any good reasons for the circa 2005 spike. 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.
Photo of the celery painting by the author. Read more about Nigel Sussman at Berkeleyside.
Cover of Celery for Profit: An Exposé of Modern Methods in Celery Growing (1893), original from the University of Minnesota. No known copyright restrictions.