Growing Celery in Downers Grove?

Celery Vase

Your first question is why is there an article about celery in the DGHS Newsletter? Well, because the 2024 Downers Grove Historical Society’s Founder of the Year, Isrel Larry Blackburn, grew celery on his property . . . right in town!

Throughout the 1890s, Isrel Blackburn grew celery, known locally as the “best” celery, on his farm located at the corner of Forest and Curtiss Streets. Isrel, a former slave, came to Downers Grove in 1866 and purchased the 2.5 acres of land for his farm from Samuel Curtiss, another of Downers Grove’s Founders.

Years ago celery had a prominent place on the dining room table. It was so popular there were celery vases like the one pictured here to hold celery as a centerpiece on the table.

Kleins Grocery Store Ad

On many menus celery was listed as an appetizer, and it was seen on many Thanksgiving dinner tables. People wanted to eat celery raw or even cooked as it was thought to have the ability to cure conditions like rheumatism. Grocery store ads in the Downers Grove Reporter highlighted “fresh celery”.

Enjoy this recipe of Mrs. Laura Eve Graves for Cream of Celery taken from the 1901 Congregational Church Cookbook.

Cream of Celery

Take six stalks of celery, cut into small pieces, cover with boiling water and a scant teaspoon of salt, and cook until tender. Take one tablespoon of butter, when hot add one tablespoon flour and one cup milk. Add a small piece of butter and pepper to taste and pour over cooked celery.

Contributed by Lois Sterba

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