Commonly used as a vegetable around the world, celery's advantages include its delightful crunchy texture and taste, and its substantial health benefits. It is added raw to salads and appetizer platters and also to many cooked dishes. Celery is a member of the Umbelliferae family whose other members include carrots, fennel, parsley and dill. All parts of the celery plant -- the leaves, roots, seeds and the stalk are very useful. The can be used as a food, as seasoning, as well as a natural medicinal remedy.
Celeriac is a variant of celery called Celery Root or as in French, Ce’lerie-Rave’.
Celeriac grown for its fleshy white and round ball-like root. This can weigh between 800gms and 1 kg. Cultivated in the north of France and in the Paris region, it is sold without its leaves and looks like a heavy white ball. It should not be cracked when bought.
Celeriac is easily digested, contains 44 calories per 100gms and is rich in phosphorus and sodium chloride.
Celery salt, which is extracted from pulverised celeriac root is used as a condiment for tomato juice, moulded vegetables in aspic, in salad dressings and in cold sauces. It is also used in salt free diets.
The modern day celery plant originated from wild celery. Botanists believe that the plant originated in the Mediterranean region of North Africa and Southern Europe. Botanical evidence also suggests that celery grew all across west and central Asia right from this mediterranean region upto the western edge of the Himalayas.
Celery has been consumed both as food and medicine for a very long time. Excavations in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (1333-1324 BC) have also yielded the remains of this herb-vegetable.
Homer’s Odyssey (9th century B.C.) mentions celery and it is said that the Greeks used celery leaves in place of laurels to felicitate athletes of repute and achievement. The Romans are said to have used celery as a flavouring.
In the Middle Ages, celery started being used as a vegetable as well as a medicine and seasoning. Celery was first eaten raw in the 18th century in Europe. Celery was introduced in the United States early in the 19th century.
Arguably the world most widely drunk cocktail, the Bloody Mary, is also associated with celery. The tradition of using a celery stick as a garnish in this drink happened quite by accident. A patron apparently recieved this drink but no swizzle stick or cocktail stirrer and used a stick of celery from a relish tray that lay at his side. This event apparently took place in the 1960s at Chicago's Ambassador East Hotel.
The flavour of the celery was so delightful with the tomato juice and vodka cocktail, that this garnish became tradition and that the rimming of the glass was also begun with celery salt.
- Celery is best known as a vegetable. It is used around the world as a vegetable, either using the crisp stems or fleshy root (celeriac root). It is also eaten raw.
- Creole and Cajun cookery both use celery extensively. Celery is one of the three vegetables along with onions and bell peppers that form the “Holy Trinity”of both these distinctive cuisine styles.
- The French Mirepoix which is a combination of aromatic vegetables used to provide body to French stocks, sauces and stews. Mirepoix comprises of carrots, onions and celery.
- Celery is also grown for its seeds, which yield a valuable volatile oil used in the perfume and pharmaceutical industries.
- Celery seeds can be used as flavouring or spice, either as whole seeds or ground and mixed with salt as celery salt. Celery salt as earlier mentioned, can also be made from an extract of the roots.
- Celery is widely used as a seasoning, in cocktails (notably to enhance the flavour of Bloody Mary cocktails), or the Chicago-style hot dog (which uses celery salt and no ketchup), and in Old Bay Seasoning,(which is a dry mixture of celery salt, mace, cinnamon, allspice, ground dry mustard, ginger,paprika, cloves and cayenne pepper and other things). Old Bay seasoning was orinally used for seafood but now is used for almost anything, from french- fries to popcorn.
Therapeutic uses (Use only on the advice of a cerified medical practitioner)
- Celery is a rich natural source of Vitamin C and other compounds like phalides, which may help lower cholesterol, and coumarins, (an anti-coagulant group) that may be useful in cancer prevention.
- Celery is a natural pain killer and has been used as such since 30 AD. Today, that quality is still recognised and controlled by a world patent.
- Celery also acts as a diuretic and can be used along with cabbage to prepare a soup to flush the system of toxins.
Selection, storage and preparation
- Select crisp, pale to bright green celery stems that break with a snap and leaves that bunch together tightly at the bottom and splay out.
- The centre of the bunch should be free from blackening or a round globe at the bottom (the seedstem). Bunches which have a seedstem tend to be more bitter.
- Celery should be stored in a wet cloth or in plastic wrap. If the celery is stored cut, it should be dry to avoid nutrient leaching.
- Cleaning and preparing celery. Trim the base, roots and leaves. Wash the leaves and stems well under plenty of running water. Celery tends to have a lot of dirt or mud in the cup shaped curvature of the stems.
- Trim the stems to the desired length, dry. If the celery stem is woody and has fibrous strings on the outside, peel the strings away like one would string beans.
- Most of the vitamins and minerals are in the leaves. The leaves should be used as soon as possible as they do not keep.
- Celery stems may be frozen for later use in cooked dishes.
- Celery wilts easily, so it should be stored in the refrigerator.
The site needs to be sunny with midday shade. It also needs shelter form strong winds.
The Soil needs to be rich, moist and well drained
It should be sown under heat in early spring outdoors in late spring. The germination is slow
Transplant or thin to 16 inches apart and the smallage is not suitable for growing indoors.
Pick leaves in late summer or as needed. Collect seeds when ripe.
Dry the seeds or dry or freeze leaves or infuse in vinegar.
- The Larousse Gastronomique
- The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods: Dr. Michael Murray and Dr. Joseph Pizzorno with Lara Pizzorno, MA, LMT. Time Warner Books, 2005.
- Recipe Zaar - Celery
- Celery First Used as a Medicine