Everything You Need to Know About Celery
Who doesn’t love celery? It has a mild, yet distinct flavour, not to mention an irresistible crunch. Celery is universally loved as a snack, is a great addition to a variety of dishes, and is a vital component of any delicious mirepoix or sofrito, a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions used to add flavour to stocks, sauces, soups and other dishes. Celery can grow up to 16 inches tall, and has fleshy, ribbed stalks that join at the base to form a head. The inner stalks, called the heart, are the most tender.
In addition to the stalks, you can also consume the dark and light leaves, otherwise known as the tops that usually get tossed aside. Delicious, nutritious and packed full of vibrant celery flavor, the tender leaves can be tossed into salads and soups, whizzed into pesto or used as a garnish.
The first cultivated form of celery was developed from wild celery in the 16thcentury. Two types of celery were introduced: celeriac, which has a fleshy root, and stalk celery, which was developed for its leafy stems.
There are several varieties of celery, with stalks varying in colour from different shades of green to white. To obtain milder-tasting and lighter-coloured celery, the plant is often blanched during cultivation; this consists of covering the growing celery with earth, paper, or boards to protect it from the sunlight.
When grown for its seeds, the celery is left in the ground unharvested; it flowers the following year, bearing white umbellate flowers that give way to strong aromatic seeds, commonly used in cooking. Celery salt is a seasoning derived from ground dried celeriac.
How to Select and Store Celery
Choose celery with shiny, firm, crisp stalks. If it is sold with its leaves then they should be a healthy green colour. Avoid limp or damaged stalks, as well as those with brown patches or yellowing leaves.
Celery will keep for a week in the refrigerator, wrapped in a perforated plastic bag or damp cloth or placed in a sealed container. Celery has a high water content and wilts quickly, so it should not be left at room temperature for too long. Celery will also keep for several days standing in a dish of cold salted water.
How to Prepare Celery
Trim the base, wash the stalks, and cut them to the desired length. The tougher surface fibers (or strings) of the outermost stalks can be removed by cutting a thin slice at the base or the top of the stalk and peeling the fibers off. This can also be done with a vegetable peeler.
To stir-fry: Cut celery into ¼ inch slices. Stir-fry for one minute, using 5 cups of chopped celery, with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of liquid (water or broth), cover, and cook until just tender-crisp. Or add near the end of a mixed vegetable stir-fry.
To freeze: Celery takes poorly to freezing, as freezing makes it wilt. However, this isn’t as important if it is going to be used for cooking, or if it is being frozen after it has already been cooked (especially when it is only one of many components in a dish such as spaghetti sauce or soup).
- To revive wilted celery, sprinkle it with a little water and refrigerate it for a few hours or until it regains its crispness.
- Juice celery for it’s not-to-sweet vibrant flavour and add to homemade sodas and cocktails.
- Try roasting celery for an added dimension of flavour.
Celery Goes Well With
Produce: apples, artichokes, carrots, cauliflower, celery root, fennel, endive, kohlrabi, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, shallots, scallions, squash, water chestnuts, turnips, tomatoes, raisins, and watercress
Herbs & Spices: dill, basil, turmeric, cloves, pepper, chives, cumin, parsley, pepper, mustard, tarragon, and thyme
Dairy: cream, yogurt, cream cheese, cheese, Parmesan cheese, and goat cheese
Miscellaneous: almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, quinoa, tofu, lentils, barley, chicken, various sausages, rice, risotto, beef, seafood, and eggs
Celery Serving Ideas
Celery can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Raw celery is often consumed as an appetizer, either on its own or stuffed with cheese, a seafood mixture, poultry, eggs, or peanut butter.
Raw celery can also be added to salads and sandwiches for added crunch. Try adding chopped celery the next time you make tuna, chicken or egg salad sandwiches.
The addition of celery adds a nice crunch to this fennel, celery and radish salad.
Celery is wonderful cooked in soups, sauces, stews, pasta, tofu dishes, quiches, omelets, and rice recipes. It is especially good in this celery and parmesan orzo salad, a perfect dish for potlucks and picnics.
The bright, herbaceous flavor is the perfect ingredient in a sophisticated celery soda infused with lemon and black pepper.
Celery seeds are slightly bitter and have a concentrated celery flavour. They are often used whole or crushed in stuffing, poached vegetables, crackers, marinades, and dips or sauces.
Think outside the stalk with celery! Try using celery juice to make popsicles, an innovative way to incorporate celery’s nutrition into your diet.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, per 100 g, celery has only 16 calories, 37% of vitamin K, 16% of folate, 6% of fibre (1.5 g), 7% of potassium, 5% of vitamin C, and 4% vitamin B6 (of your daily recommended intake).