Celery, crisp, thick, succulent, leafy cultivated stems, ranging in shades of green, the darker shades being more strongly flavoured. As a vegetable, celery is eaten raw or cooked, often braised or stir-fried. In stocks or sautéed, finely chopped with onion and carrot, it contributes the basic flavouring to many European dishes.
Celery is a versatile vegetable that is widely used in a variety of recipes. It adds a fresh flavour as well as a distinctive crunchy texture to both cooked dishes and salads. Celery was used originally as a seasoning because it was quite bitter. The practice of earthing up the growing plant results in milder celery; this practice started in the 16th century, probably in Italy.
Leaf celery is dark green and closely related to wild celery. It is used in France and Italy as an aromatic to flavour soups and stews. Pascal green celery is the standard green celery variety. “Celery hearts” are simply the inner, more mild-flavoured, and almost stringless hearts of standard celery, and they are more expensive. Blanched celery is a regional specialty of the Pennsylvania Dutch that has a more delicate flavour and none of the bitter aftertaste of deep green celery. In Britain, special varieties of Pascal celery that have long white, pink, or red stems are grown in trenches out of sunlight.
The Chinese, who have used wild celery since as early as the 5th century A.D., independently developed cultivated varieties of celery. Chinese celery, called kintsai or heung kunn, has thin, hollow, and juicy stalks with a strong flavour. It should be picked young.
- When buying celery look for regular shaped stalks that are not broken or bruised, it should look moist and crisp and be tight and compact. The leaves should be fresh and well coloured, with no sign of wilting. The darker the celery, (it can range from white to darkish green) the stronger its flavour.
- The leaf tops should be lively and green, never slimy. Brown or cracked bunches should be avoided as well as over-large heads as these tend to be bitter or stringy.
- Keep in its plastic sleeve (if provided) else refrigerate in plastic bags for up to 1 week. Alternatively, refrigerate with the butt end in 2–3 cm of water, and change water daily.
Cut off the base of the bunch of celery and discard.
Remove any damaged or bruised outer stalks (these can be used for stock or soup) and trim off the leaves.
Separate the individual stalks and wash, being especially careful at the base, which collects dirt.
Cut off the tops below the joint, which will be tough.
Discard darker green leaves.
You may use the mild inner yellow-green leaves.
To remove strings (only necessary on large outer stalks), bend back and snap a rib of celery at the point where the stalk changes colour from green to white. The strings will be exposed and can be gently pulled off the stalk.
Slice into even-sized pieces for cooking and bite-sized pieces for salads.
Celery is popular raw as a snack, or with a dipping sauce.
Celery can be pan-fried or served au gratin. To pan-fry celery, heat 15ml olive oil in a frying pan, add the chopped celery and season well, cook stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes or until it is tender but crisp.
To cook celery au gratin, preheat the oven to 190°C, 374°F, gas mark 5. Fry the celery as above, transfer to an ovenproof dish and cover with cheese sauce, top with grated Cheddar cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Celery can be sautéed and served as a vegetable side dish.
Stuff raw celery stalks with mashed Roquefort or other blue cheese.
Add sliced celery to savoury dishes like stir fries, braises, stews, pies or soups.
The leaves can be used in salads, soups, stocks, braises, stews or as a garnish.
Use fresh young celery leaves from the centre of the bunch mixed with other leaves in a green salad.
Stir fry sliced celery and drizzle with sesame oil.
It can be included in a variety of salads including Waldorf salad where it is combined with chopped, unpeeled red-skinned apples and walnuts and dressed with mayonnaise.
Serve pieces of celery with sliced peppers and carrot and cucumber chunks as crudité for savoury dips.
Serve the best inner stalks to accompany a cheeseboard, with bread or biscuits and a small dish of sea salt for dipping.
Suggested Cooking Methods
boil (in soup)
Sub-Category: Leafs, Shoots and Stems
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