Growing up celery was a staple produce in our family. All summer long my mom would keep carrot and celery sticks in water in the refrigerator for easy affordable and healthy snacks. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered celery isn’t the most popular vegetable because of its stringiness.
What Is Celery
Celery is a marshland vegetable, and unlike many “Is it fruit? Is it veggie?” there is no argument over the fact that this is a vegetable. The stalk and leaves are edible, and celeriac is a popular root vegetable in Europe.
How to Choose Celery
When choosing celery look for a bunch that has firm stalks that don’t look dried out. Also check to make sure the ends aren’t withered up and the stalks aren’t damaged with gashes and cracks. Celery should be kept in the cooler in the produce department and be put in the refrigerator at home as it tends to wilt quickly. See picture above for an example of what to look for. One of the kids picked this bunch out and I forgot to check it before he put it in the cart.
You can buy celery hearts and celery sticks for easy prep but keep in mind you lose more product with dried out ends and the cost is a little higher. I’ve tried celery hearts and don’t find it to save that much time, plus I like keeping the leaves for soups, etc.
How to Use Celery
How to Prepare Celery for Use
Wash the celery well as dirt likes to cling to the ribs. Cut off the very ends and set the leaves aside for soup greens. They add a nice flavor to soups. Celery is a great healthy snack to have on hand as a low calorie vegetable but we like to pair it with peanut butter and raisins or cream cheese or a dirty martini olive spread, which adds calories but also some staying power. Check out these fun treats with celery – celery peanut butter apples and this fun food craft for celery planes.
Cooking Preparations for Celery
Celery is a good vegetable to incorporate into your family’s diet as it has 1/3 the daily allowance of Vitamin K and many other nutritional benefits. You can eat celery raw or cook it. Most people don’t cook it to eat by itself but rather mixed with other vegetables.
The best way to cook celery and retain most of the nutrients is to steam it. Our family enjoys eating it raw but most of us aren’t fans of cooked celery unless it is cooked for a long time with other ingredients so the taste and texture doesn’t stand alone. However, it is a staple in our soups, and I often add it to veggies in pasta sauce.
Have a case of “wilted celery”? Never fear, it’s still useable. Chop it up into soup or saute diced up celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in a little oil until soft then freeze for future soup ingredients.
How to Grow Celery
Celery can be grown in both the north and the south but is considered a finicky vegetable to grow. For everything you need to know about growing celery, see this article from the Almanac. I’ll stick to growing lower maintenance vegetables, especially since celery is so inexpensive.
How to Preserve Celery
If you find a whole bunch of celery is too much for your family to consume before it goes bad you can freeze it for soups and casseroles. It doesn’t need to be blanched before you freeze it but you can do so to prolong flavor and freshness. Just keep in mind that celery doesn’t maintain that beautiful crunch when frozen but will get mushy upon thawing, which is why you want to use it in recipes where it adds flavor but isn’t necessarily the main star, except for in a cream of celery soup. Who wants this recipe?!
If you choose to blanch the celery, here are the directions for doing so.
- Bring stock pot of water to a boil.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water (to stop the cooking process and cool the celery after blanching).
- Add celery to boiling water.
- Blanch for 3 minutes.
- Remove celery from water and give a quick ice bath.
- Drain then package and freeze.
TIP 1: Flash Freezing: If you want your celery to freeze in individual pieces, spread them out on a cookie sheet that’s been covered in parchment, waxed, or freezer paper. Put in freezer for 1 hour then package as you wish for freezing.
TIP 2: I use my salad spinner to get excess water off my produce after blanching and before freezing.
While there are some canning recipes that include celery as an ingredient, there are no resources for canning celery on its own. I do not recommend doing so.
Did you Know…
- Celery Salt is ground up celery seed mixed with salt.
- Celery is/was a popular dish at Amish weddings.