Celery is a type of garden plant (Apium Graveolens) that grows in bunches of leaved ribs instead of one main stem. One of the most popular vegetables in the Western world, celery has an herbal, astringent flavor and succulent, crisp texture. Celery is usually eaten raw, but it's also delicious cooked in soups, stews and casseroles.
The celery plant originated in the Mediterranean where it was used exclusively as a medicinal herb. The ancient Greeks called it selinon, and it was mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, which dates back to 850 B.C.
Considered much too bitter to eat, celery wasn't used as food until Italian gardeners improved its cultivation in the 17th century. A Dutch immigrant who came to Kalamazoo, Michigan with a sack of celery seeds is credited for bringing the vegetable to the U.S. The first plant was harvested in 1874, and today celery is the third largest agricultural industry behind potatoes and tomatoes.
The most common celery variety is the pale green Pascal. Less familiar is Golden celery, a variety grown under a layer of soil or paper to prevent chlorophyll from developing and turning it green. The ribs of Golden celery tend to be larger, thicker, and free of strings.
Some specialty produce markets will also carry Asian celery, a vegetable that resembles common celery, but with slimmer, longer stalks. The leaves are dark green and parsley-like. It can also be eaten fresh or cooked.
Celery is available year-round. Choose firm bunches that are tightly formed. The leaves should be green and crisp. Pre-packaged celery hearts contain the choice, tender, innermost ribs.
Store unwashed celery in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Asian celery should be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to one week. Leave the ribs attached to the stalk until ready to use.
- Right before using, wash celery thoroughly and trim the leaves and base.
- Reserve celery leaves to use in soups, salads, stuffing and garnish.
- Prepare celery in advance by placing cut pieces in bowl of ice water up to one hour before serving.
- Add chopped celery to soups during the last 10 minutes of cooking to retain some crunch.
- Celery can be braised, steamed or boiled until just crisp-tender.
A popular choice for dieters, the act of chewing celery actually burns more calories than it contains. Celery is also a good source of fiber and vitamins A, C and E.
Try one of our favorite celery recipes: