So this recent sign at a Palm Springs grocery store register gave me pause:
WHO BUYS ONE STALK OF CELERY AT A TIME?
A bag of celery is, like, a dollar. Plus it can live a month in the fridge, which means a steady supply for Bloody Marys or a Natalie Portman-like diet for those who aspire to star in a “Black Swan” sequel.
During OCD fridge cleanings, if I happen upon droopy celery buried in the vegetable bin, triage is performed with a knife and a bowl of ice water. In extreme cases, it gets tossed into the nearby sandy lot for rabbit snacks. They love me, and probably so do the coyotes.
A man who answered the customer service line for the Vons store on Palm Canyon Drive at Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs said he was not allowed to speak to the media about the new celery policy and referred me to corporate headquarters.
So I called corporate headquarters.
Jenna Watkinson, manager of public affairs and government relations with Vons, a Safeway company, said it was not something she was aware of, but she’d look into it and get back to me as soon as she could.
“Upon research, this appears to be an isolated program, impacting one specific store,” read an email from Watkinson. “We aim to provide quality customer service and variety to our shoppers, and will often seek ways to cater to specific communities.”
This got me to thinking. Are we being too wasteful, sending too much celery to its death? Are these people who buy one stalk at a time vegetable conservationists? How nice was that for Vons to cater to individual customer needs?
Should celery growers offer smaller bunches?
JD Allen, manager of the California Celery Research Board, laughed repeatedly during the interview.
“Man, I never even thought of that,” said Allen, who has also worked with a carrot board. “I can see that’s a legitimate concern for people that are alone.”
“Maybe they ran out of peanut butter,” he added. “Maybe they need to take up Bloody Marys.”
They might sell one rib (it’s technically called a rib, not a stalk, I learned) of celery at a time in Japan, though, said Allen. They sell one carrot at a time in Japan, albeit those carrots are larger.
“They would individually wrap this large carrot,” he said. “It just seemed so funny to me. I mean, really? Why?”
Allen’s getting ready for their annual Celery Board meeting. It turns out California celery growers produce more than 85 percent of the nation’s celery, about 23,800 acres, according to the California Celery Research Advisory Board (or CCRAB).
“I’ve been talking back and forth with some of the growers this morning about different things — this not being one of them,” said Allen. ”I’ll definitely bring it up.”
He goes to a few celery field trials a year. You’d be amazed how many different celery varieties there are, he noted, but was not sure about the feasibility of marketing baby celery à la baby carrots.
In the meantime, he surprisingly encouraged people to eat more celery.
“I’ve read somewhere – we’ve haven’t done studies – that celery has some Viagra-type properties. It makes more sense than watermelon.”
Bonus: Bunny eating celery…