Celery is one of those vegetables that doesn’t get the love that it deserves. I know more than a few people that think of it as an afterthought.
But it isn’t just for your next crudité plate or a swath of peanut butter. It is a workhorse and a staple that is worth your while to have in the fridge.
What is celery?
Celery is a marshland vegetable meaning it needs a constant supply of water to grow and thrive. Makes sense considering it is 95% water. It is cultivated in the South in the winter and in the North in the summer because while it needs some warmth.
It grows in long stalks that are loosely clustered. Raw, it is crunchy and crisp. Flavorwise, it is distinctive, bright, and the definition of vegetal.
How to Use Celery
Celery is incredibly versatile. Those long, crunchy stalks are great in leafy salads or tossed into your favorite potato, bean or pasta salad.
The leaves are tender vessels of intense celery flavor that are great as a garnish for finished dishes with celery in them or as a standalone ingredient in a salad.
It is wonderful raw or cooked and is a base flavor for many cuisines. In French cooking, it is part of something called mirepoix, a mix of onions, carrots, and celery that is used to flavor everything from stocks to stews and sauces.
In Cajun cooking, it is one-third of the “holy trinity.” This trio of onion, green bell pepper, and celery are used to create a base layer of flavor for things like gumbo, etouffee, and jambalaya.
What is Celery Seed
Products made from celery are absolutely amazing. Celery seed is a great spice to have in your cabinet as well as celery salt (the ground seed combined with salt – did anyone say Bloody Mary’s?).
The seeds are found in the flowers, which are usually long gone by the time you purchase celery at the store.
Celery seed comes in a whole seed or ground. It is about the size of a poppy seed and dark brown. When ground it is a fine, dark greenish-brown powder.
Celery salt is made from ground celery seed and fine sea salt, often pulse in a blender until very find. It can be used to season soups, dressing and like mentioned, rim a Bloody Mary.
Celery leaves are the tender, pale green leaves produced by celery. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and there will be a few on the stalks when purchased at the store. In fact, I seek these out.
The leaves are good for salads, garnishes or soups. They have a delicate flavor and silky texture.
Are celery and celery root (celeriac) the same thing?
Yes and no- celery root, also known as knob celery, celeriac and turnip-rooted celery, is the large bulb that is the root of celery stalk.
Although connected and the same plant, celeriac is commonly used very differently than celery stalks and sold independently. It is ugly, brown and has lots of wrinkles and hair, usually covered in dirt. Appetizing, huh?
To cook with celery root, simply peel away all the yucky and then use it like any other root vegetable. It is great shredded in slaws and as a salad with poppy seed dressing.
It can also be incorporated into mashed potatoes or roasted with other starchy root veggies.
This humble veg boasts a variety of antioxidants including vitamin C and beta-carotene. It also helps to decrease inflammation and because of its high levels of water, soluble and insoluble fiber are great for the digestive system.
Why is celery bad for you?
To clear this up, it isn’t necessarily bad for you. It is, however, high in sodium and low in calories, so basing your whole diet on it is not a good idea.
What’s the difference between celery and celeriac?
These two are reminiscent of one another in terms of flavor. That is because they are members of the same family of vegetables. Celery is cultivated for its stalks and celeriac for its bulbous root. The latter is treated more like a root vegetable would be in terms of cooking.
Can I grow celery on my windowsill?
Don’t throw away the celery heart! If you are feeling like saving a few pennies or looking for a fun science project, put it in a glass or bowl with a bit of water. Pop it on the windowsill in the sun.
Change the water daily and keep an eye out for growth. About a week in, you will see the stalk really start to sprout and that it is time to plant it in some soil. Water it daily so the soil is always damp. A month or two later, you will have a bunch of celery ready to go.
When it’s ready, pull it out of the soil and use it like you would a bunch you bought at the store.