The Stem Celery

Apium graveolens var. dulce

Also known as: Stem or stalk celery, Sweet Celery, cultivated celery or simply celery, Céleri (French), Sellerie, Eppich (German) or Sedano (Italian).

  • Family: Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)
  • Origin: Europe
  • A popular herb and vegetable grown mainly for its leaf stalk (petiole), leaves and seeds.
  • The seeds are technically, a fruit called a schizocarp.
  • Celery is popular in India, the United States, and Europe.

All the plant parts are strongly aromatic. Celery takes just about 11 weeks from planting to mature into a crop ready for harvest.

The variety celeriac is grown for its swollen roots.

Celery is valued for it’s crisp texture and distinctive flavour. The stalks are naturally crisp due to rigidity of the plant cell walls and high water content within the cells. They can either be green or white.

The most common commercially grown variety is the green celery, “Pascal”, also called French heirloom celery. It has long green firm stalks and ranges in colour from light to dark green. Several varieties of the green celery have been developed.

The celery grown in winter (frost-hardy celery), has white stalks due to“earthing up”, or being covered in soil. This protects it from frost. White celery is only available in the winter growing season from September to March. It is less aromatic with a milder taste  and is less popular than the green variety.

In general the harder outer stalks should be removed and used for soups and stocks, and the more tender inner stalks are best eaten raw in salads or as appetizer. Celery is available all the year round.

Celery hearts: this is the tender, innermost stalks or ribs of celery. Most of the so called celery hearts sold in the supermarket are actually just small stalks of celery that have been washed and trimmed.

Nutrition

  1. Celery has a very high water content (about 95%) so is exceptionally low in calories. It’s the best snack for weight watchers.
  2. Per 100g (3.5oz): 12 calories, water 95g; sugar 1.4g, dietary fibre 1.83g; Fat 0.17g; Protein 0.69g and 28% RDA of vitamin K.

Culinary Use

  • Celery is used as an appetizer and salad ingredient. It’s also added to many dishes.
  • The ‘Pascal’ variety has a nutty flavour and is good for blanching and stir-fries.
  • Celery stalks are eaten raw in salads, as a snack, with dips, or cooked.
  • The stalks can also be used as a flavouring in soups, stews, and pot roasts.
  • Fresh or dried celery leaves can be used to garnish soups or salads. They can also be cooked in soups, sauces or stock; or in braised dishes, stews and pot roasts to enhance flavour.
  • Canned celery hearts and slices, are used as a garnish.
  • The seeds, have a taste similar to fennel and can be used for seasoning.
  • Celery salt is prepared from celeriac (var. rapaceum).

Celery Seeds

The essential oil extracted from the celery seeds is a major flavouring agent in the food industry used to improve the taste and aroma of prepared foods, soups, meats, sauces,
pickles, and vegetable juices ( Scholar-works)

Storage of celery

  • Celery is about 95% water so it should be kept away from the coldest parts of the fridge because it freezes easily. Freezing damages the cell walls and causes them to collapse. When thawed after freezing, the stalks will be limp and watery, and unpleasant to eat.
  • Celery should be stored, wrapped, otherwise sprinkle with water to prevent wilting.
  • Store in plastic bags in the crisper for up to two weeks.
  • Celery can also be kept fresh for several days if the base of the stalks are stood in cold salted water.
  • To revive celery that’s gone a bit limp, trim a small amount off the root end and stand the sticks in lukewarm water for half an hour or so. (Love Celery)

Shopping Tips for Celery

  • The light green celery stalks with glossy surface tend to taste best.
  • The dark green stalks have more nutrients but tend to be stringy.
  • When shopping, look for firm and compact bunches with crisp stalks, free of bruises and cracks. The stalks should snap when broken in half.
  • The stalks should be well shaped, and the leaves should be green and fresh looking.
  • Availability: all the year round.

Want to Read More About Celery?

  1. WSU herbarium
  2. History of Celery
  3. Telegraph food and drink

Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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