Celery is an edible, green leafy vegetable whose family includes other edible plants like carrots, celeriac and parsley. We most commonly eat celery’s long, juicy, and crunchy stalks. Celery stalk, celery seeds, and celery root are all commercially grown from different varieties of celery. Celery can be a technically involved and long season vegetable for farmers to grow but the reward is a vegetable so packed with flavor that it is considered a foundation for many cuisines across the world.
Locally grown celery can differ wildly in flavor intensity from celery grown for mass production and sale. Typically, locally grown celery is not “blanched”. “Blanching” growing celery is when the stalks are covered to prevent contact with sunlight for the weeks before harvest. Celery flavor can also be heavily influenced by the quality and bio-activity of the soil it is grown in.
Celery contains vitamin K, folate, potassium, fiber, and the micronutrient molybdenum. Celery also contains small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, some B vitamins and is naturally low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and cholesterol.
Buying & Storing
When buying celery, choose stalks that are green and free of discolored spots. Avoid stalks that are shriveling, yellowing or turning brown, or that have soft spots or discolored leaves. Organic celery may have a strong celery smell, darker green stalks, thinner stalks, or occasionally some bug damage to leaves. Celery should not have a musty or moldy smell. Farmers will sell celery as either a bundle of stalks or as a whole head with leaves attached.
To store celery, separate stalks from leaves and root base. Remove individual stalks and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Trim any soft or bad spots. Recipes may call for either stalks or leaves. Save unused leaves for soup stocks and garnishes. Wrap celery stalks in a moist paper towel and seal them in plastic bags, or wrap in aluminum foil. Celery stalks should last 2-4 weeks in the fridge, if they are properly stored. Celery leaves should be used within 1-3 days.
Celery stalks and leaves can be dehydrated for shelf stable storage. For long-term storage, celery stalks can be frozen. Blanch celery stalks in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from the water and rinse under cold water or put in an ice bath to stop cooking. Allow to dry then pack into containers or bags, label and freeze for up to 1 year.
Raw – Cut stem into sticks and enjoy with dips or stuff with fillings (try peanut butter and raisins or buffalo cream cheese and bacon). Chop or shave slivers to add to salad or tuna sandwiches. Enjoy as a cool accompaniment to hot wings. Juice stalks and leaves.
Garnish – The lightly peppery leaves can be chopped and used as a fresh herb for seasoning curries, fish, or soups. Use stalks with leaves as garnish for drinks like bloody marys, or with lemon and seltzer water. Stuff into roasted chicken or turkey with citrus, onion, and herbs to add flavor and moisture to the meat through the cooking process.
Soup – Add fresh or dried celery towards the end of cooking soup. Lightly sauté with other vegetables (try the classic French “mirepoix” mix of celery, onion, and carrot or the Cajun “Holy Trinity” of celery, green pepper, and onion) at the start of your soup base. Simmer with a mix of other vegetables or meat to add depth to stock or broth soups.
Sauté – Slice or chop stalks and lightly sauté over medium heat with oil or butter and seasonings for 5 minutes, then add broth and simmer for 5 minutes to finish. Slice or chop stalks and leaves, then add to stir fries for a unique flavor and texture.