Light green in color, crunchy, and fibrous, apium graveolens linn was used in early civilizations as an herbal remedy. Specifically, it was thought to calm nerves, control hysteria, and encourage sleep. Over time, however, its medicinal properties were pooh-poohed, so it was repurposed if you will, and became food. The French first used it as a flavoring in the 1600s because at the time it was quite pungent. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries gardeners discovered that growing it in cooler climates made it more palpable, so it’s then that it made its way into soups and salads and onto dining room tables throughout Europe.
Two common beliefs surrounding this marshland vegetable are: it’s the number one disliked veggie of adults, and it actually has negative calories because eating it burns more calories that it contains. Whether true or not, celery is a member of the parsley family, alongside carrots and parsnips. And there’s no disputing it’s nutritional value. High in fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K, it’s also low in calories, sodium and low on the glycemic index. Healthy with a capital H!
I do love my veggies and celery is right up there with the rest and best of them. Buying them each week at our local grocery store helps provide seven days of good-for-us side dishes and meals. And when we have the time we purchase the freshest produce possible from the roadside stands in nearby Camarillo. It’s in that area decades ago, one of my 5th grade student’s family owned a working farm. Very fortunate for me as I was the recipient of all they reaped that year.
June 10, 2006, Newbury Park, California
“Sweet students…love the cards and touching end of the year gifts. But my favorite had to be J’s! He handed me a 5-pound bag of celery!!”
While celery rarely has a starring role in a meal, there are countless dishes I wouldn’t enjoy as much without its presence. First off, turkey stuffing. Can you imagine dressing without those crisp pieces adding texture and bite-ability? Or what if it was absent in tuna and egg salad? The mouthfeel just wouldn’t be the same. Or what would one of my favorite childhood snacks – celery stalks filled with peanut butter – be without this stalk? Just plain old peanut butter…meh!
There are times when celery does get top billing and deservedly so. Here are two mouthwatering recipes featuring this vegetable.
Celery Salad with Apples
By Sonja Overhiser from acouplecooks.com
- 8 celery ribs plus ½ cup celery leaves
- 1 red apple
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1. Thinly slice the celery ribs, then thinly slice the apple.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup or sugar, and kosher salt. Gradually whisk in the olive oil one tablespoon at a time.
3. In another bowl, toss together the celery ribs, the celery leaves with the apple, dressing, and cheese. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days. If necessary, refresh with a little vinegar or salt.
By Martha Stewart
- 2 T. butter
- 12 to 15 large stalks celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise (about 6 cups), leaves reserved for garnish
- 1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
- 1 baking potato (8-10 oz.) peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
- Coarse salt
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Heat butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, onion, and potato; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Add 6 cups water to saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Working in batches, puree soup until smooth. (To prevent splattering, fill blender only halfway, and allow the heat to escape: Remove cap from hole in lid; cover lid with a dish towel, holding down firmly while blending.) Return soup to pan; stir in lemon juice, and season with salt. Serve, garnished with celery leaves.
Chop it up and toss into salads, or dice it with onions and carrots to make an aromatic Mirepoix for soups, or highlight it in any dish you wish. Whichever way you choose to use it, be sure to “stalk” up on some celery this week! It’s worth celery-brating!