As much a household staple as onions or potatoes,
celery is valued for its crisp texture and distinctive flavour.
It is widely used as an appetiser, a salad ingredient, and an
addition to many cooked dishes. A bunch or head of celery is
made up of individual stalks or ribs. These ribs are naturally
crisp due to the rigidity of the plant's cell walls and the
high water content within the cells. In fact, celery is mostly
water and therefore exceptionally low in calories, making it
a first-rate snack food for people trying to control their weight.
Although it is not especially high in nutrients (largely because
of its high water content), it does have a respectable amount
Light green celery stalks with a glossy surface tend to taste
best. (Dark green stalks have slightly more nutrients, but are
apt to be stringy.) If not wrapped, celery should be sprinkled
with water to prevent wilting. Look first at the bunch, it should
be compact and well shaped and then examine the leaves, which
should be green and fresh looking. The leaves are a good guide
to the celery's overall condition. The stalks and leaf stems
should feel firm and crisp, as if they would snap when broken
in half, and should be free of cracks or bruises.
Inspect both the outer and inner surfaces of stalks for discoloured
spots or bruises, or for patches that appear to be trimmed off-,
grocers sometimes slice off bruised or rotting areas, and such
stalks won't keep as long as undamaged celery.
Refrigerate celery in a plastic bag in the salad drawer, where
it can keep for up to two weeks. Keep the vegetable away from
the coldest areas of the refrigerator, the back and the side
walls, since celery freezes easily, thus damaging the cell walls.
Once thawed, the celery will be limp and watery. Sprinkle the
stalks occasionally with water to maintain freshness, since
celery dehydrates easily. If the stalks have begun to wilt by
the time you want to use them, refresh them by submerging them
in ice water for several minutes.
Rinse celery thoroughly to remove sand and dirt. To serve it
raw, cut the stalks to the desired length just before serving
them. (If you want to cut the celery in advance, let it stand
in ice water for up to an hour before serving.) If stalks are
stringy, they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. Trim off
the leaves and knobby tops and if you wish, save them to add
flavour and texture to salads, broths, soups, and stews.
When added to other dishes, raw or cooked celery is generally
cut into smaller pieces—you can slice the ribs diagonally,
chop or dice them, or slice them lengthwise.