Celery belongs to the same family as celeriac, differing only in that the stalks, rather than the stem-base, have been cultivated for eating. The more traditional variety is white winter celery, grown in trenches, improved by frost, and eaten in England around Christmas. Self-blanching and green celeries have been introduced more recently and are grown outdoors in summer, or under glass.
Celery is also cultivated for its seeds, used as flavouring or spice - either as whole seeds, or ground and mixed with salt as celery salt.
Celery preparation ideas at a glance:
We know that sometimes customers are a bit at a loose end when it comes to celery in their boxes. It is however a very useful vegetable: crucial in the base (soffritto) for risottos, stews and soups with it’s aromatic flavour which mellows as it cooks and takes on the other flavours of the dish. It is a popular companion to cheese and can be used in stuffings, and as a flavouring, particularly to roast birds. Of course there’s the classic Waldorf Salad complimenting the savoury flavour of raw celery with apples, walnuts, cheese and a creamy dressing. Celery also makes a tasty crudite for dips and a quick, nutritious snack - trimmed, cut into thirds and filled with nut butter.
Because it's low in calories and high in fibre it's very popular with dieters. It's a good source of potassium, while celery seeds are high in calcium.
Celery has long been used to treat gout and arthritis, and is currently believed by some people to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
It is also one of small number of foods known to provoke severe allergic reactions, and can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock in people allergic to it.
HISTORY: Smallage, the wild plant from which celery is derived, is native of Europe and Asia; paleobotanists have dated it back some 4000 years. Celery leaves were part of the garlands found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and in Homer's Iliad the horses of the Myrmidons graze on wild celery in the marshes of Troy. The thick-stalked celery that we eat today was developed in Italy around 1500, and probably brought by Italians to England, about a century and a half later. John Evelyn wrote in 1699: "Sellery... was formerly a stranger with us (nor very long since in Italy) ...and for its high and grateful Taste is ever plac'd in the middle of the Grand Sallet, at our Great Men's tables". It was taken to North America by early settlers, where it bolted and spread far and wide.
Celery (for obscure reasons) is the subject of Chelsea FC supporters' chants, and they are famous for throwing it at matches. This has given rise to the "Chelsea Cocktail", a pint of Guinness garnished with a stick of celery.