The plant that we know as celery today was developed from wild celery, remains of which have been found in 14th century Egyptian tombs. Wild celery was a widespread plant in Europe and was commonly known as smallage. Smallage was a bitter herb primarily used for medicinal purposes, although the Romans did use it as a flavoring as well. During the 17th century, Italian gardeners began to hybridize the plant to eliminate the bitterness. Today celery is found in a variety of forms including seeds, ground, leaves, salt, essential oil, and the veggie tray favorite, stalks.
Appearance of celery
- Celery is a member of the parsley family and has green leaves that can be used in soups and casserole just like parsley.
- Celery grows up to four feet tall and has thick, ridged leaf stalks, which are harvested as a vegetable.
- Celery blossoms rise above the leaves in small clusters of yellow flowers. Following the flowers come small light green seeds.
- Celery seeds are dried for use as a spice and are medium brown with a hint of green and with lighter colored ridges.
Aroma and taste
- Celery has a distinctive smell, which smells like celery; a circular definition that doesn't help anyone who has never seen or smelled celery.
- The seeds have a warm flavor that has notes of nutmeg and parsley.
- Ground celery is used in Bloody Marys although some say that small seeds work as well.
- Celery salt is used by those who want a savory note in their dish. It is made of salt flavored with essential oil of celery.
- The leaves of celery can be dried and used for soups and casseroles (they are particularly good in chicken soup).
- Celery stalks are a popular vegetable, which are most commonly ate raw although they can be used in salads. Celery stalks are famed for their 'negative' calories. The calories a person's body must use to digest the vegetable are greater than the calories contained by the vegetable.
- Celery enhances the flavor of beef and is recommended in beef dishes at a quarter teaspoon per pound.
Traditional and folk medicine usage.
- The essential oil was a popular cure for rheumatism.
- Celery is popular among herbalists as a treatment for asthma and bronchitis. It is also reputed to help with flatulence and fever.
- Celery seed tea has the reputation of helping insomniacs to relax and fall asleep.