Fenland celery today joined the ranks of Champagne, Stilton and Cornish pasties in gaining protected food status from the EU.

Grown in peaty soils in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, the winter celery variety has a sweet and nutty flavour, and is milder and paler than standard celery. G’s Fresh, which brought Fenland celery back into commercial production in 2000 and was the driving force behind the PGI application, currently supplies it to Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

Fenland celery commands a price premium over standard celery because yields are lower and its harvest is more labour intensive. In the past, it had been difficult to convey to shoppers what made Fenland celery such a premium product, said G’s marketing director Anthony Gardiner. “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.”

G’s also believes Fenland celery’s heritage fits in well with growing consumer interest in products with provenance. “We feel that now more than ever, it’s really important to keep such a strong Fenland tradition alive,” said Gardiner.

Gaining PGI status for Fenland celery was a real boost for East of England growers, added newly-installed Defra minister George Eustice. “They will now be able to trade the product with an authenticity guarantee that sets it apart from its competitors.”

Fenland celery is the first English vegetable to gain protected food status from the EU. In total, sales of British products that have protected status amount to about £1 billion a year, according to the UK Protected Food Names Association.   

News of Fenland celery’s PGI comes as the European Commission today awarded protected designation of origin (PDO) status to Greek ‘Messara olive oil’, the 100th Greek protected food name to be registered. The extra virgin olive oil is obtained from Koroneiki olives and is produced in the Messara region of southern Crete.