What is 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).

Carrot Family, Umbelliferae (Apiaceae)

Origin: Europe, the Mediterranean region and in Asia west of the Himalayas

Celery is a cultivated biennial plant with thick succulent leaf stalks that are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable.

The cultivated celery was recorded in 1623 in France, where plants with a milder taste were selected from wild plants for use as a vegetable. At the same time celeriac with its large edible tuber was selected, probably in Italy. These two types have become the most important in Western temperate areas (PROTA)

Celery is a popular herb and vegetable mainly grown for its thick succulent leaf stalks (petioles),  leaves and seeds. The seeds are technically, a fruit called a schizocarp.

All the plant parts are strongly aromatic. Celery takes just about eleven weeks from planting to mature into a crop ready for harvest. It 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 variety celeriac is grown for its edible tuber.

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.

How to use celery

You can use celery stalks as an appetizer before having your meal. The stalks can be eaten on their own or together with a dip.

If you are watching your weight you can snack on celery which is a healthy alternative to oily potato chips or cakes or biscuits.

Cucumber, Apple Celery Salad with Chicken

Celery can be added to numerous salads together with cucumber, arugula and apples. The combination for salads is endless. I leave it to your imagination.

To cook celery you can blanch, boil, sauté, steam, roast, stir-fry or microwave.

You can also use celery stalks as a flavouring in soups, stews, and pot roasts.

Use fresh or dried celery leaves  to garnish soups or salads. You can also cook them 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.

Celery Seeds

Celery seeds are the minute seed-like fruits of the celery plant which are harvested, dried and used as a condiment or spice.

The so called seeds are technically, a fruit called a schizocarp. They closely resemble the seeds of Ajwain (Carom Seeds) that are also used as a spice but have a much stronger flavour and aroma.

Celery seeds can be used as flavouring or spice either as whole seeds or, ground and mixed with salt, as celery salt. Celery salt can also be made from an extract of the roots

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)

How to  store celery

  1. 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.
  2. Celery should be stored, wrapped, otherwise sprinkle with water to prevent wilting. Store in plastic bags in the crisper for up to two weeks.
  3. Celery can also be kept fresh for several days if the base of the stalks are stood in cold salted water.
  4. 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)

How to Buy Celery

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

Botanical Notes 

The genus Apium comprises about 30 species, most of which are indigenous in temperate South America. Apium graveolens has been subdivided into 4 varieties:

  1. Var. graveolens. representing the wild type of celery.
  2. Var. secalinum (Alef.) Mansf. known as the leaf celery, because it is cultivated for the aromatic leaves. It has slender green petioles, and is closest to the wild type.
  3. Var. dulce (Mill.) Pers. the stalk celery, grown for its thickened succulent leaves which are curved in cross-section and grooved on the external surface, with a distinct joint where the leaflets are attached.
  4. Var. rapaceum (Mill.) Gaudin. Celeriac, grown for the roundish tuber up to 15cm (6-inch) in diameter. The tuber is mainly derived from the hypocotyl, but also incorporates part of the taproot and stem. Its flesh is creamy white and firm, and usually softer than carrots. (PROTA)

Want to Read More About Celery?

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

Celeriac myfavouritepastime.com

myfavouritepastime.com Last Updated: July 29, 2018

Author: Liz

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

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