Introduction: Celery is a vegetable with quite a reputation, as it can be used in a variety of dishes. Its crunchy texture and distinctive flavor makes it a popular addition to salads and many cooked dishes. Although it is available throughout the year, you will enjoy the best taste and quality of celery during the summer months when it is in season and locally grown varieties can be easily found in the markets.
Celery grows to a height of 12 to 16 inches and is composed of leaf-topped stalks arranged in a conical shape that are joined at a common base. It is a biennial vegetable plant that belongs to the Umbelliferae family whose other members include carrots, fennel, parsley and dill. While most people associate celery with its prized stalks, the leaves, roots and seeds can also be used as a food and seasoning as well as a natural medicinal remedy.
One cup of celery contains 15% of your daily value (DV) for vitamin C, a vitamin that helps to support the immune system. Vitamin C-rich foods like celery may help reduce cold symptoms or severity of cold symptoms.
One cup of celery also contains about 40% of your DV for vitamin K. Vitamin K is commonly known to aid in blood clotting. When the body is injured, vitamin K initiates the process of healing by slowing and stopping the bleeding. Vitamin K also helps the body absorb the beneficial mineral calcium.
Celery’s potential for reducing high blood pressure has long been recognized by Chinese medicine practitioners. Celery contains active compounds called phthalides, which can help relax the muscles around arteries and allow those vessels to dilate. With more space inside the arteries, the blood can flow at a lower pressure. Phthalides also reduce stress hormones, one of whose effects is to cause blood vessels to constrict.
Celery is a diuretic. It is rich in both potassium and sodium, the minerals most important for regulating fluid balance, stimulates urine production, thus helping to rid the body of excess fluid.
Celery contains compounds called coumarins that help prevent free radicals from damaging cells, thus decreasing the mutations that increase the potential for cells to become cancerous. Coumarins also enhance the activity of certain white blood cells, immune defenders that target and eliminate potentially harmful cells, including cancer cells.
Select and Store: Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart. It should be relatively tight and compact and not have stalks that splay out. The leaves should be pale to bright green in color and free from yellow or brown patches. Sometimes celery can have a condition called “blackheart,” which is caused by insects. To check for damage, separate the stalks and look for brown or black discoloration. In addition, evaluate the celery to ensure that it does not have a seedstem-the presence of a round stem in the place of the smaller tender stalks that should reside in the center of the celery. Celery with seedstems are often more bitter in flavor.
To store celery, place it in a sealed container or wrap it in a plastic bag or damp cloth and store it in the refrigerator. If you are storing cut or peeled celery, ensure that it is dry and free from water residue, as this can drain some of its nutrients. Freezing will make celery wilt and should be avoided unless you will be using it in a future cooked recipe.
Cleaning and Eating: To clean celery, cut off the base and leaves, then wash the leaves and stalks under running water. Cut the stalks into pieces of desired length. If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin cut into one end of the stalk and peeling away the fibers. Be sure to use the leaves-they contain the most vitamin C, calcium and potassium-but use them within a day or two as they do not store very well.
Celery should not be kept at room temperature for too long since, because of its high water content, it has a tendency to wilt quickly. If you have celery that has wilted, sprinkle it with a little water and place it in the refrigerator for several hours where it will regain its crispness.
Celery is so amazingly delicious, you can easily add it to your favorite salad and juice, or simply crunch on it with any raw nut butter or hummus. We do feature celery in our delicious raw almond pate recipe, and also in our article on 20 simple juice recipes. Enjoy!