Season for Celery Available Year Round, Peak in Summer
Most of us look fondly back on our days of "ants on a log," a childhood favorite snack showcasing celery stalks, peanut butter and raisins. But then we grow up and celery seems to transform into a dreaded diet food. Let's appreciate this unsung hero for its slightly sweet yet distinctly savory, herbaceous flavor that contributes its inimitable forces to numerous cooked foods and a signature crunch to all manner of salads. Celery is a key aromatic and textural ingredient in stocks, soups, stews, sauces and stuffings, and though most of us are only familiar with its stalks, celery's leaves, roots and seeds are also used as a food and seasoning - as well as a natural medicinal remedy.
How to Buy and Store Celery
When choosing celery, look for firm, crisp and compact bunches with stalks that would snap off in... well, a snap! Celery leaves should be pale green to lime green and fresh-looking. Avoid any brown, black, yellow or split stalks, as these are signs your celery is past its prime, or damaged goods. Very large bunches with dark green stalks may be bitter or stringy, so opting for a smaller bunch may be your best option.
Leave the ribs attached to the stalk until you're ready to use, as they will dehydrate quickly once removed. Your celery will keep loosely wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
How to Cook Celery
Begin by trimming off the base and leaves (but don't throw them away!) and washing the stalks under running water. If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin slice into one end of the stalk and peeling away the fibers; this is a great idea for those of you who aren't keen on the chewiness of celery. Then, cut your stalks to your desired length. Celery is most commonly used as a base for soups with onions and carrots or as a healthy snack, but this crunchy, fibrous veggie can add flavor and bulk to almost anything without adding calories - raw or cooked.
Think of creative ways to use the leaves too, as they contain the most vitamin C, calcium and potassium (you've only got a day or two to use them though). The leaves are tender with an under-appreciated flavor all their own. Use the leaves in salsa verde, salads, sauces and soups.
Health Benefits of Celery
The word celery comes from the Latin celeri which means quick acting, referring to its therapeutic properties. Many ancient healing schools of thought revere all parts of the celery plant for its health sustaining assets, for example Chinese medicine has always maintained celery's power in reducing high blood pressure. Celery contains heaps of vitamin C which is great for the immune system and several other active compounds that promote health, including phthalides which may help lower cholesterol and coumarins that may be useful in cancer prevention.
If for nothing else, get your celery addiction on because it was named one of our 11 Foods that Get Your Sex Drive Going Naturally.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Celery
Celery is among the Dirty Dozen, or 12 foods on which pesticide residues are most frequently found according to the Environmental Working Group. So - especially as a popular snack food for children - purchasing your celery organically means not exposing you, your kids and the rest of us to harmful chemicals - avoiding pesticide-associated health risks and supporting a cleaner planet. Let's keep celery as the revered health food that it is!