Here’s a formula for getting the most out of a bunch of celery:
- Trim off the leafy top and set it aside for flavoring soups or stock or for use in salads.
- Remove and dice the coarse outer ribs then combine them with diced carrots and onions and herbs to make mirepoix—a tasty seasoning for sauces and stews—or a bed for fish or braised meats.
- Sauté tender outer ribs in butter, season with salt and pepper, and serve with roast pork or lamb.
- Use the tiny leafy ribs around the center for a raw vegetable hors d’oeuvre.
- Split the inner most ribs—called the heart—and braise in chicken or beef stock, add fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley and serve as a side dish with a sweet, nutty flavor.
Or, you could just slice up a few celery stalks and stuff them with peanut butter or cream cheese.
Celery brings texture and a mild flavor to salads, hors d’oeuvres, soups, stuffings, stews, and stock. It can be steamed, braised, or sautéed and served as a side dish.
Celery is a biennial grown as an annual. Celery grows in a tight rosette of leaf stalks each topped with many divided leaves. The stalks usually grow from 8 to18 inches (20-40 cm) tall. The green outer stalks and pale green inner stalks are furled around a central heart where the ribs are thin and the leaves are tiny.
Celery stalks, leaves, and seeds (which come in the second year after the plant has matured and flowered) are all edible. Celery seeds are aromatic and often used in cooking.
Types of Celery
There are two basic types of celery divided by color: green and golden.
Green celery—also called Pascal celery–is the most common celery. Pascal celery has large, heavy, green ribs and green leaves. The outer ribs are good for dicing and cooking and the inner ribs, or heart, can be eaten raw or braised.
Golden celery—also called blanched or white celery—has ribs that are white and leaves that are yellow. Golden celery is sometimes sold as celery “hearts.” Golden celery is delicious raw and may also be used for braising.
Golden celery is sometimes blanched or bleached under a layer of soil or paper (this prevents chlorophyll from developing and turning the stalks and leaves green), but there are also self-blanching varieties of golden celery.
Europeans seem to prefer golden celery, and Americans seem to prefer green celery.
Pascal celery is often found year-round, but its peak season is mid-summer to late fall. Golden celery is most abundant in the late fall.
Wild celery—the ancestor of cultivated celery—grew first in the marshy regions of Europe and Asia. It was bitter tasting and used in elixirs in ancient Greece and Rome and during the Middle Ages.
The first mild-tasting celery was cultivated in Italy in the late sixteenth century and used as a seasoning. In the eighteenth century, Europeans began to eat celery as a raw vegetable. Celery was introduced into the United States in the nineteenth century.
The Latin and botanical name for celery is Apium graveolens var. dulce. The Latin Apium is derived from the Celtic word for water, apon, which refers to wild celery’s watery habitat; graveolens means aromatic; the variety name dulce means sweet or pleasant tasting. Wild celery is bitter. Cultivated celery is sweet or mild tasting.
Choose. Select celery with crisp, firm, bright stalks in tightly formed bunches. The ribs should be straight and rigid. If the leaves are attached, they should be fresh and green.
Avoid celery that is soft, dry, damaged, or that has brown patches or yellowing. Overly large celery bunches with dark green stalks may be bitter and stringy. The darker the color of celery the stronger the flavor.
Store. Keep celery in a perforated bag in the refrigerator crisper for up to one week.
The stalks and leaves should remain attached until you are ready to use them.
If celery becomes limp when stored, you can restore its crispness by trimming the rib ends and soaking the stalks in ice water for 10 to 20 minutes.
You can freeze celery for up to 3 months: wash and cut the stalks into 1 inch (2.5 cm) lengths, blanch them for 3 minutes, cool, drain, and pack them into plastic bags. Frozen celery can only be used in cooked dishes.
Prepare. Trim the base and wash the stalks only when you are ready to use them. Peel away tough outer strings before serving raw or cooking.
Cook. Simmer celery sliced or diced in a covered container for 5 to 10 minutes. Whole bunches cut into quarters or individual ribs will require 10 to 20 minutes to simmer.
Steam celery for 10 to 20 minutes. Sauté or stir fry small pieces of celery until tender.
Serve. Celery can be served raw or cooked.
- Serve raw celery as a snack, appetizer, or in a salad. Stuff raw celery stalks with cheese, seafood mix, or deviled eggs.
- Stuff raw celery stalks with mashed Roquefort or other blue cheese.
- Add raw celery to sandwiches.
- Add diced celery to egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and potato salad, and to mixed vegetables.
- Combine diced celery, unpeeled red apples, and chopped walnuts bound with mayonnaise to make Waldorf salad.
- Make a salad of finely sliced celery, thin flakes of Parmesan cheese, oil, lemon juice, and pepper.
- Use celery leaves and stems to flavor soups, sauces, stews, pasta, tofu, quiches, omelets, and rice.
- Celery stems can be boiled, braised, fried, or baked. Stir-fry diagonally sliced celery until crisp-tender.
- Braised celery can be gratineed, topped with béchamel sauce or with melted butter.
- Braised celery hearts are a good companion for game, duck, or pork.
- Celery stuffing: combine equal parts finely chopped celery, milk or chicken broth—add soft bread crumbs until mixture has the moisture you like, season with sage, thyme , marjoram, and pepper.
- Celery leaves can be used to flavor salads, soups, sauces, or bouillons. Add celery leaves like parsley to meat dishes.
- The classic French mirepoix—which includes celery– is a mixture of diced aromatic root vegetables used to flavor sauces, soups, and stews.
- Celery seeds are slightly bitter and have a concentrated celery flavor. Use whole or crushed celery seeds in stuffings, poached vegetables, crackers, marinades, and sauces.
- Celery salt is a seasoning derived from ground dried celeriac.
Flavor partners. Celery has a flavor affinity for blue cheese, butter, chicken soup, fish Gruyère cheese, poultry, and shellfish.
Serve celery alone or mixed with carrots, peas, onions, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, or any combination of these.
Season celery with salt, pepper, onion, garlic, mustard, paprika, parsley, dill, basil, tarragon, or thyme.
Nutrition. Celery is an excellent source of potassium and contains vitamins A and C. There are 8 calories one large outside stalk of three inside stalks of celery.
The botanical name for celery is Apium graveolens var. dulce.