When it comes to embracing a healthy diet, few vegetables can compare to the refreshing, vibrant qualities of celery. With its satisfying crunch and delicate flavor, celery has earned its place as a versatile and nutritious ingredient in a wide range of dishes. From adding a crunch to soups to a green juice or a vehicle for peanut butter and raisins, celery is incredibly delicious and healthful.
But it's not just its culinary appeal that makes celery stand out – this humble vegetable boasts an array of health benefits that make it a valuable addition to any balanced diet.
Whether you are interested in adding celery to your diet or new to the vegetable, we have put together this guide for you. We will share everything you need to know, from how to eat fresh celery to what to do with these raw vegetables.
What Is Celery?
Celery is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. We have evidence that it was brought all the way to Switzerland and elsewhere as early as 4,000 B.C. it seems to have been used for its medicinal properties for centuries in China, India, Egypt, and Rome.
Celery belongs to the family of vegetables and herbs known as "umbellifers." Carrots and parsnips are in this family, and spices such as coriander, cumin, dill, and parsley. Some umbellifers, like hemlock, are poisonous.
Celery used to be hollow inside and tasted much more bitter, but around the 17th century, the Italians started developing the celery we commonly eat today, known as Pascal celery. It's not just the stalk that is delicious and nutritious - celeriac (or the celery root) is used to add flavor to all sorts of soups and stews. Celery leaves make a delicious addition to a salad, and celery seeds are often added to tuna salad.
What Does Celery Taste Like
Celery has a unique and distinct taste that can be described as crisp, refreshing, and slightly tangy. It presents a gentle, vegetal flavor complemented by a subtle touch of sweetness. The inner stalks possess a delicate tenderness and a milder taste in contrast to the outer, more fibrous ones.The flavor of celery leaves is often more intense and herbaceous, adding a pleasant bitterness to the overall taste.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Celery
Celery was known mostly as a low-calorie vegetable with high water content, making it a great snack for weight loss. And that's still true. However, recent research has uncovered many other health benefits of celery, celery seed extract, and other celery extracts.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Celery leaves can reduce chronic inflammation in the body with their high levels of certain bioactive compounds. These compounds affect cytokines, which are the messenger molecules responsible for increasing or decreasing inflammation.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
In a 2015 study, it shows that celery leaf extract can reduce levels of LDL or bad cholesterol. In addition, celery extract can also reduce SBP, cholesterol, triglyceride, and VLDL in an animal model of fructose-induced hypertension.
Lower Blood Pressure
Those phthalides also lower the levels of various stress hormones. This allows your blood vessels to expand, giving your blood more room to move. The potassium in celery is a vasodilator and reduces high blood pressure. And the iron in celery seed will produce healthier blood.
Lower Arthritis Pain
Celery has been used for centuries to treat arthritis, rheumatism, and gout. It does this by reducing inflammation, as we've already discussed, but also by acting as a diuretic. This way removes uric acid crystals that can build up around joints and contribute to arthritic pain.
Lower Asthma Symptoms
Celery is high in vitamins A and C. Vitamin C, along with supporting the immune system, also helps to prevent damage by free radicals. Vitamin C, combined with anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce asthma symptoms.
Celery has hypolipidemic, antidiabetic, and hypotensive properties. All of these can combine to help reduce insulin resistance.
Prevent Oxidative Damage
Eating raw celery may protect your kidneys, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder from oxidative stress that can lead to all sorts of diseases.
Celery has high levels of calcium and magnesium, which have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress significantly. It also contains calcium, which releases neurotransmitters, and it further contains coumarins, which are being tested as treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and more. In summary, celery can really help your nerves!
This is mostly because celery is 95% water, but it does help to dilute stomach acid and keep heartburn at bay.
Support Digestive Tract
Celery is high in dietary fiber, which not only helps in weight loss but also keeps your bowel movements regular. The antioxidants in celery also help your gut health by protecting the stomach lining and reducing the risk of gastric ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.
Support Bone Health
Celery contains a surprising amount of vitamin K - a single celery stalk provides about 15% of the daily recommended amount. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting, wound healing, and strong, dense bones. Celery seeds are high in calcium, manganese, and iron, strengthening your bones.
Promote weight loss
Celery is a low-calorie vegetable packed with essential nutrients, making it a guilt-free option for those striving to maintain a healthy weight or promote weight loss. Abundant in dietary fiber, celery supports digestive health, fosters a sense of satiety, and contributes to a balanced metabolism. Including celery in your meals can satisfy your appetite while nourishing your body with minimal impact on your caloric intake.
Promote healthy skin
With over 95% water, celery serves as a natural hydrating agent, contributing to overall hydration and supporting optimal bodily functions. Maintaining proper hydration is essential for nurturing healthy skin, regulating body temperature, and facilitating optimal organ function. So, snacking on celery can be an excellent way to quench your thirst while providing your body with vital nutrients.
However, there are some things to keep in mind when eating celery for health benefits. Celery has a fairly high salt content in vegetables, although not enough to be considered a high-sodium food. The fiber in celery is insoluble, which means that it moves things through your intestines but isn't well digested, which could lead to watery stools.
How to Wash Celery
Washing celery is a simple process that helps remove dirt, debris, and any potential contaminants from the surface of the stalks. To wash celery, follow these steps:
Start by rinsing the celery under cool running water. This helps remove any loose dirt or particles.
Delicately rub the stalks with your hands or use a vegetable brush to eliminate any persistent dirt effectively. Pay extra attention to the base and crevices where dirt might accumulate.
If desired, you can fill a basin or a large bowl with cool water and add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. Immerse the celery stalks in the water and allow them to soak for a few minutes, enabling thorough cleansing. This can help further remove any remaining dirt or bacteria.
After soaking, rinse the celery again under running water to wash away the vinegar or lemon juice residue.
Gently dry the celery by patting it with a clean kitchen towel or utilizing a salad spinner to eliminate any excess moisture.
How To Choose The Best Celery Stalks
Celery isn't ever really in or out of season since it can be grown in many places all over the world. It's readily available in any grocery store. Look for firm stalks that are bright green, have no yellowish discoloration, and have crisp leaves. If you buy it in bunches, celery will last longer in your fridge than separated and cut stalks.
How To Eat Celery
Celery offers a multitude of possibilities for culinary enjoyment, allowing you to cater to your preferences and explore diverse dishes. Consider these popular ways to savor celery:
Celery can be enjoyed raw as a healthy and refreshing snack. Simply wash the celery stalks, cut them into sticks, and munch on them as is. You can also dip celery sticks in your favorite dips like hummus, peanut butter, or ranch dressing for added flavor.
Celery is a common ingredient in salads, adding crunch and a mild flavor. Chop celery into small pieces and toss it into green salads, pasta salads, or grain-based salads for extra texture. It forms delightful combinations with ingredients such as tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and leafy greens, resulting in harmonious flavor profiles.
Soups and stews
Celery is a timeless addition to soups and stews, contributing a gentle taste and enjoyable crispness to these comforting dishes. Dice celery stalks and include them in your favorite homemade soups or stews, and they also work well in vegetable or chicken noodle soups.
Stir-fries and stir-fry sauces
Sliced celery can be a tasty addition to stir-fries, adding a crisp texture. Stir-fried celery along with other vegetables and proteins like chicken, beef, or tofu for a quick and nutritious meal. Celery can also be included in stir-fry sauces to enhance the flavors.
Juices and smoothies
Thanks to its hydrating properties and nutritional value, celery is widely embraced as a favored component in green juices and smoothies. Juice celery along with other fruits and vegetables or blend it into a smoothie for a healthy and refreshing beverage.
While raw celery is a common choice for consumption, its culinary potential extends to various cooked dishes as well. Sauté celery with onions and other vegetables as a base for sauces, soups, or stuffing. It can also be added to casseroles, baked dishes, and stir-fried rice for added flavor and texture.
Stuffing and stuffing mixes
Celery holds a timeless presence as a key ingredient in traditional stuffing recipes. Dice it finely and incorporate it into your favorite stuffing mixture, adding flavor and texture to the dish.
Ways To Cook Celery
Celery is a remarkably versatile vegetable that lends itself to a wide array of cooking methods, presenting an assortment of textures and flavors to explore. Here are some popular methods to cook celery:
Warm a small amount of oil or butter in a pan set over medium heat. Add chopped celery and sauté until it becomes slightly tender and lightly browned. This method enhances the natural sweetness of the celery while introducing a subtle hint of caramelization.
Preheat the oven to around 400°F (200°C). Toss the celery stalks with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and a dash of pepper. Place them evenly on a baking sheet and roast for approximately 20-25 minutes or until they become delectable golden brown. Roasted celery has a deeper, richer flavor and a slightly softer texture.
Steaming celery is a gentle cooking method that helps retain its crunchiness and nutritional value. Steam celery for about 5-7 minutes until it becomes slightly tender. Steamed celery works well as a side dish or as an ingredient in salads, stir-fries, or soups.
To braise celery, slowly cook it in a rich and aromatic liquid like broth or wine. Begin by heating oil or butter in a skillet, then add celery stalks and cook them for a few minutes until they develop a gentle browning. Then add the liquid, cover the skillet, and simmer until the celery becomes tender and absorbs the flavors.
Cut celery into thin slices or small pieces and stir-fry it with other vegetables, proteins, and seasonings. This quick-cooking method helps to retain some crunchiness while infusing the celery with complementary flavors.
Use celery as a key ingredient in soups, such as cream of celery soup or vegetable soup. Chop celery into small pieces, cook it with other vegetables, herbs, and broth until tender, and then blend it to create a creamy and flavorful soup.
Combine cooked celery with a creamy sauce, such as béchamel or cheese sauce. Place it in a baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs or cheese, and bake until the top is golden and bubbling. This method creates a delicious and comforting side dish.
How To Store Celery Stalks
If left on the counter or unwrapped in the fridge, those crunchy stalks will become limp and rubbery. Celery should be stored in your refrigerator, attached as a bunch to its base, and wrapped in plastic, and it will stay fresh for up to two weeks that way.
Still, it's handy to have cut celery sticks on hand. If you'd prefer to cut your celery bunch into stalks, here are some tips to keep them fresh as long as possible.
Fully submerge the chopped celery in water. Set fresh celery stalks in a glass or bowl, completely cover them in water, and then cover the container with a lid.
Place the stalks in a jar full of water, similar to a bouquet of flowers. It can be left uncovered, the tops sticking out.
Wrap a wet paper towel around the celery stalks, and cover the bundle with aluminum foil.
What is the difference between regular celery and celery root (celeriac)?
Regular celery and celery root, also known as celeriac, are two different parts of the same plant but have distinct characteristics and culinary uses.
Regular celery has a mild, crisp, and slightly tangy flavor. It is commonly used raw in salads or as a crunchy snack. Celery root (celeriac), however, has a more assertive and earthy flavor with a hint of celery taste. It has a dense and firm texture, similar to other root vegetables.
Regular celery is primarily used as a vegetable for snacking, added to salads, stir-fries, and soups, or as a flavoring agent in various dishes. It is the stalks that are typically consumed. On the other hand, celery root (celeriac) is mostly used as a root vegetable and is cooked before consumption. It is often peeled, diced, and used in stews, purees, gratins, roasted dishes, and soups. It can also be shredded and used in slaws or added to mashed potatoes for added flavor and texture.
Are there any potential allergies or side effects associated with celery consumption?
Yes, there are potential allergies and side effects associated with celery consumption. Some individuals may have an allergic reaction to celery, which can range from mild to severe, and this is known as celery allergy or celery pollen-food syndrome. Signs of a celery allergy may encompass itching, hives, swelling, breathing difficulties, and in severe instances, anaphylaxis. It is important for individuals with known allergies to celery or related allergens to avoid consuming celery or products that contain celery.
How long does celery last in the refrigerator?
Under proper storage conditions, celery typically maintains freshness for approximately 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. However, factors like the initial freshness of the celery and storage conditions may cause slight variations in its shelf life.